I first saw the fireflies when I was a girl, on a hot summer night.
“What are those?” I asked my mum.
“Fireflies!” she whispered.
I looked at the bright winks circling the moonless darkness. They looked like flying match sticks. Tiny angels with invisible faces. The fireflies gave the hot night a halo of warmth.
“Where do they come from?” I whispered, afraid I might frighten them away.
My mum laughed softly. Almost inside her throat.
After a brief pause, she answered, “They come from heaven… to give light on a dark night.” I nodded.
The fireflies with their golden halo mesmerized me.
The next morning I went back to the hibiscus bush. That is where the fireflies had been last night. Would I see them again? What did they look like in the daytime, I wondered.
I could not see the fireflies in the sunlight.
Only the red hibiscus flowers preparing to burst their sepals and splay their velvety red petals before the new sun.
The road of life extends in all directions. It begins somewhere beyond the edge of the morning sun and ends in a quiet dark place. The road turns, twists and stretches itself over and over. It arches itself to reach the highest spots. It stoops to duck beneath the low, mean bridges. It runs along endlessly.
We never touch the same sidewalks two times, never pass the same billboards on the way back. Nothing repeats, and the road carries on through new neighborhoods.
Life happens once.
I grew up. The fireflies faded away and the sunlight blinded me. Career. Jobs. Marriage. Furniture. Another home. Another car. Another day. Another…. More…
On ordinary days, life repeats. Alarmingly.
One night a thought stubbed its toe in my head. It hurt. It also freed the fireflies. As I slept, the fireflies circled the soggy night. Warm. Glowing. I touched them. They seemed sad. They reminded me of a faraway tropical night, the hibiscus.
They reminded me it had been a happy time. A safe time.
I felt alone. Sad. The fireflies seemed lost. I asked why there were roads I could not revisit. People I could not see again. Fireflies don’t speak, and so they just looked at me. Angels with sad faces.
“What is this place?”
I must be dreaming. Heaven was not a place we visited in the random course of life. A long avenue unfolded, lined with flowers I had never seen before. Little red and pink shapes that nodded in a light breeze.
Why was I here? Then my heart stopped in amazement.
“Mum?” She stood before me, smiling a smile I knew so well. I could not see her face too well, but I knew it was her.
“Mum?” I repeated and she came forward and held my hand tightly. Urgently.
We were in our garden at home. The hibiscus bush ached with the load of its big red blossoms.
The fireflies hovered around us. Living matchsticks. Possessive. Watchful. Like a halo of grace.
My mother smiled.
I had found a road that turned back upon itself. That I could see a second time in my life.
Photograph Courtesy: Sharbeen Sarash © All Rights Reserved