There are flower petals flying past much how I’ve always imagined lightning-bugs must be. Bright fluttering pieces of colour added into the air over the street like a surreal yet expected light pink snow.
I’ve never seen a lightning-bug, except on television. I’ve always wanted to see them. They sound magical. When I was a child, I carried a particular episode of the Twilight Zone with me, just because it had them in it. They were something a vampire showed a boy before he died. Black and white, a little bit grainy. Those were my lightning bugs, my tiny bits of flying fire, almost pure static showing through some sound-stage reality.
The sparks from the first highway torch I ever lit reminded me of that show. They way the red flared and sputtered, all the sparks flying up harmlessly to bat my fingers. Moths, I thought, No. Lightning bugs. Bright chemicals with soft wings. Later, when I began being lucky enough to work in fireworks, it was like my peaon to all those lost moments of my childhood. How I never saw a lightning bug, how I never broke a window, how I still don’t know how to play marbles. Lighting the torch was my victory over all those things. My mirror movement to a hundred people before me, touching contact to contact, connecting the charge. All of my work going up in a blaze of glory. It’s a silly phrase, blaze of glory, but that was it exactly. The light shooting into the sky, the exultation I found in myself watching it, knowing that I had created this, that my hands were responsible.
The last show I worked was Illuminaires, Vancouver’s lantern Festival of Lights. Thousands of people slowly turning around a lake, carrying waxed dragons and paper nuns and all the towers of Moscow above their heads, the water reflecting all the fire and muted colours into a faint vision of another world. It was supposed to be my first success in the struggle against my difficulties. Life had been hard, a stress test that I was rapidly failing. Friends had been dying like teenage drunken drivers, family had been absent, lovers untouchable.
Instead I lit the match, took my place by the sand and explosions, and cried at the foot of my spectacular display. Exciting as it was, when I turned away to examine the thick sea of faces crushed together at the edge of our orange barriers, there was not one face that I knew, not one person to share my moment with. I had painted the sky with pyrotechnics, brought heaven like the seventeenth century. This was my passion play, this intense exhibition, and there was no one to give it to. I could only see the empty excitement of strangers glaring into the light. Eyes that never once dropped to meet mine, eyes that didn’t conceive how I had worked that day, blistered my fingers twisting wire, slivered my palms on the trestles, eyes that didn’t know my name.
That night was when I finally shivered apart. That was the last and final thing, being unable to reach out and touch another face, even in such an incredible place. I lost myself after that. I wasn’t anymore than the sum of my fragile parts, more a mirrored reflection of myself split into delicate pieces. I stopped sleeping, I forgot how to eat. Between my experiences and the inside of my head was such an incredible distance that it seemed ineradicable. My hands would never stop shaking and I would fall down in the street in fugues of missing time.
Now is recovery. Flower petals above the street.
To everyone present last night, thank you.