1. Sparkler in hand you run barefoot among the rows of seated families, watching in awe as the flame lingers in the air, your retinas burning. You return, cackling, to your mom, waving the sparking stick too close to her face for comfort. The white light falters and fades away. The grass is wet, the sky dark except for the strip of city glow on the horizon. You’re waiting, time stretching on forever. Fireflies rise in the grass from in between your toes and you try to catch one, finger outstretched and hopeful. The first boom startles you. Fire erupts in the sky as your mom gathers you onto her lap, smiling in wonder at the way she can see every light reflected in your eyes. These were the days when the show lasted hours, one stunning shower of lights after another. Later you’ll realize it was mere minutes.
2. You drove here, you must’ve. Yes you definitely did. You run back to your car in a panic, the prospect of being near pseudo-strangers, (enemies?) too daunting. The sky is exploding as you slam the car door shut and dig your nails into the skin on your wrist. You scratch and you scratch until skin is coming off in layers and your nails are sticky with blood. You glance longingly at the cement ledge. Whose smart idea was it to park on the top floor of a parking garage? Yours probably, but you don’t remember anything before this moment. Did you take something? You don’t recall. You’re crying and crying and you can’t breathe but you’re shifting into reverse and speeding down the ramp. The only fireworks you see that night are in your rear view mirror. These were the days when you thought these people mattered, when you wanted both their pity and respect. Later you’ll realize he didn’t care enough for you to worry so much anyway.
3. You’re late. Your head is foggy as you shuffle down the street in your pajamas, not even intending to make it all the way there. You follow the popping until you catch a glimpse of a yellow starburst. You climb onto a ledge at the end of the street, the hot stone chafing your bare legs. You look up, catching the rest of the show from between tree tops and with the glow of a streetlight. You think of blankets, of hands held and smiles upturned and dewy grass beneath you and you blink. You blink again and again until it’s gone. You’re shaking but there are no tears. You sit there long after the sky returns to blankness, wishing the minutes still stretched like they did when a firefly looked big in your hand and you could fall asleep in the car on the way home. These were the days when every moment alone felt lonely. Later you’ll realize you were better company anyway.