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July 24, 2013


There is something about being under fireworks with someone.

You look up and it’s like the world is being born again; the sky is split into pieces of light and the stars have found themselves out-matched for a moment.

I was once in an airplane on the Fourth of July while fireworks were exploding below – the clouds turned red and purple and green. I felt like the planet was going to fall out from underneath me. For us Americans, fireworks exist to tell the story of death and rebirth – I don’t think we can watch them without this tug inside of us that feels like danger and vulnerability. Like kids giddily waiting to be scared, we toss our necks back and shiver.

When you are under the fireworks and they’re reflected on the lake and you are rocking in the dark water in some boat, you like to have someone’s skin up against you. You can’t help but watch the sky, but there’s also this feeling that you need to have a hold of this girl beside you. However strong she is, you want to gather her up next to you so you can be witness together, as if somehow your peace under a fiery sky depends on its echo inside each other.

Or maybe it’s because you’re lonely and you’re hurt – and in that moment when she’s looking up and sulfur is raining down in flakes, caught in strands of her hair, you believe grabbing her hand will keep her from shooting up there with a smoke trail after her, away from you.

During a fireworks show you get one moment to look into her eyes – right before the finale when the boat is rocking and a few times you’ve leaned more into her and she’s leaned more into you – when a handful of rockets glare down from their zenith, that’s when you look over and catch her like a five year old in awe of the night she’s in. She’ll notice you before she looks down into your eyes and it’s a moment, just a moment, that you really see one another as the lights burn like foxtails on their way down and sizzle on the surface of the water.

Then the blackness before the next burst seems like forever as you’re there together with hot shoulders gazing up and thinking about how easy it is to be alive and how hard it is to feel alive.

You watch the smoke clear after the gunpowder has burned itself out and the flashes against the darkness stay with you the rest of the evening. As the boat idles, you look out at a low hanging orange moon fighting for a sky-space and you gaze out across the water at the houses with the lights still out. The heavy night settles the noise and people sit in silence on their porches and finish their drinks thinking about the world and freedom and all of that.

And you can see the ignited sky still in her eyes. You look at her and she’s got it – that thing that goes up high and away from you and strings off a hundred miles it seems, and then comes back down to settle against the smoky wake of homeward boats.

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