Loss and Hope

There are few things that remind me of my childhood as much as fireflies. I can still recall the feeling of the first gentle breeze of the evening, a merciful reprieve from the day’s heat. The sun would gradually slip away in a brilliant wash of colors, making way for the stars. And as the lights in the heavens began to shine, so, too, did the lights on earth. Fireflies, countless in their number, began their dance above the river near our home. And there I was, wide-eyed and embraced by wonder. In those moments, I was the only person that existed in the world. The moon was my spotlight, and the tiny flickering embers were the audience that I played to. In a very real sense of the word, it was magical.

It was those nights that taught me a fundamental truth of life: the things that bring us happiness in life are fleeting, but our memories of them are not. The seasons would make their inevitable march, and those dreamlike nights would turn to evenings bundled up against the cold. Evenings that I spent listening to my father, with a voice as deep and as soothing as the sea, telling us the great stories of our ancestors. I used to love those stories. I still do. I had heard them countless times, but every reading brought with it a sense of family, and of security. I used to love to imagine myself as one of those great heroes, dreaming of being powerful, charming, and beloved. Those nights would end. Unlike my fireflies, they would never come back.

I still think about the fireflies, from time to time, and the way that those nights made me feel. I know that I’m a different person now, and I know that I can never go back. But the fact that I can still feel the joy they brought me tells me that I’m on the right track, that I’m turning things around. There’s a part of me that has always felt guilty. I ran away…once. There was no choice for me, nothing left for me. Everything that I had loved was gone—a lifetime of simple, cherished days strung together, ended carelessly, impossibly, in only a few terrifying moments. That was seven years ago now. It’s hard to believe. It doesn’t even feel real when I think of it, as though it were the story of someone else—someone that I once knew.

I am no longer running away. I met someone on my travels, a man who was running from something else, in his own way. I saw in him a weakness that I saw in myself, and I set about fixing it. It’s funny how that works, isn’t it? We always want to fix others as though we were fixing ourselves. I wonder if he found happiness at the end of his journey. And I wonder what will be waiting at the end of mine… There is no way to know what tomorrow holds, but I will keep my head held high as I face it. Whatever the world wants to throw at me, I can only smile and say, “Heh. Is that the best you’ve got?”