On Friday night, I got buzzed by a black and red insect while brushing my teeth. I moved to the side to finish up because I figure most bugs in the Swamp are harmless and it might as well live out however many hours it has.
(Mosquitos are different. They are not bugs. They are some other class of being I will kill by the millions if necessary. In fact, every summer, I generally do.)
I also knew that if I tried to put it outside, I’d probably let in many more bugs, including nuclear mosquitos, so I left it alone. We got in bed. Lights out. Eyes shut.
Until the whole room lit up.
My first thought was, “Cool.”
I rolled onto my back and waited, and a moment later the room obliged me by lighting up again. And again. And again.
“Criminy,” I murmured. “That was a firefly.”
I awoke my Patient Husband, who had fallen asleep within moments, and we both watched as the room lit up every ten seconds. And our little red and black friend didn’t want to stay in one place, either. It careened all over the room. When it landed on the blanket over my hip, I asked my Patient Husband to turn on the light.
When he did, I found our mighty huntress cat, the one we rescued from the back yard and who’s carrying bullet fragments in her leg and spine, with her nose right up to the bug. She wasn’t trying to eat it. Not yet. She just seemed curious and delighted, and I’m sure after a while she would have taken a nibble, since if singing food is delicious, light-up food must be even more so.
My Patient Husband got me a paper cup, and we trapped the firefly, which he then released outside, leaving our bedroom with only the fifty or so mosquitos that had gotten inside during the day.
This morning, I find myself thinking of that firefly in the paper cup, and I’m remembering a family party from twenty five years ago, or longer. Me and my brother and three of my cousins, roaming our hostess’s back yard with a plastic red soda cup, tracking fireflies through the air and then putting them into the cup, where they’d stupidly crawl around the inside without flying away. I hadn’t thought of that for years until our visitor flashed us.
One of those cousins died last month. Four years younger than me, he just…died. No apparent cause of death. A light that flashed and went out too soon. And I think of his parents and brothers, doing the equivalent of lying in the dark waiting to see that light again, remembering a boy holding a cup full of fireflies.