This evening we were coming home from dinner at Bob's folks' house when we realized we both desired ice cream.
We pulled in to Main Street at Exton and wound our way through a rather long line of teengers and twenty somethings poised at the counter of Maggie Moo's, looking on as ice cream was mashed and molded in to a variety of things that were both fun to look at and delicious to taste.
I myself opted to have ice cream based purely on the fact that it was a blue color. Smurf blue, to be exact. It turned out to be cotton candy flavored and I am still sporting stained lips and tongue from the enjoyment of it. Bob had cherries and dark chocolate in an ice cream who's flavor I couldn't determine. It was slightly pink, though.
We walked outside and sat down at one of the outdoor tables near some very ancient trees. Their bark was mottled, gray in some parts and white in others where the older outer layer had flaked off. They'd obviously been there for some years and Main Street had taken pains to leave them there while developing the land.
As we sat and watched the fireflies rose up in solemn silence, flashing in brief brilliance before disappearing in the growing dark of the evening. They all stayed close to the ground, no more than a few feet above, and seemed to weave back and forth over the culvert of undisturbed ground beneath the ancient trees. There was no where to look where there were not fireflies flashing and flaring brightly, and were it not for the teenagers chatting behind us about smuggling alcohol in listerine bottles, I could have easily lost myself in the scene and believed it all to be the edge of the land of Faerie.
We sat and slowly consumed our melting ice cream, watching them dance. After a bit we began to ponder aloud the fact that these were staying so close together, a completely throng of them whirling and moving but not seeming to go much further. The ones at our house do, rising up and seeming to park themselves about the maples and pines out on the back course. Sometimes they seem to fly higher. They must, they go somewhere out of our sight eventually, drifting upwards. Why did the ones there feel the need to rise up in to the night while these stayed down low, close to one another?
Perhaps, I posited, it was because there were so many of them. They didn't have to go far to find each other. The ones around our house were not nearly so numerous, so maybe they rose upwards to see farther, to try and see one another at a distance.
Possibly true, Bob allowed, and it made sense. The ones near our house weren't nearly so thick as the ones we studied.
It made me think about those flashes, how they were trying to find one another in the dark, reaching out the only way they had available to them. A single flash every now and then, when they felt was right or when evolution dictated, either way. To try and find that other someone out there. They were all looking for someone else. And somehow even though the flashing looked the same to us, they could find one another through all of that and knew based on a moments hesitation, the perfect timing, that they'd discovered another lightning bug to fill whatever need they had.
It's like people. We only know how to do so many things to connect. And really it's all the same. Words, actions, are really such small and imprecise tools to try and communicate with each other. A sentence said one way to one person will come across entirely differently to another. It may hurt one but overjoy another. We're all just floating in the dark flashing our lights trying to find each other, trying to find others who will be friends, family, lovers, mates...whatever we think we need. Whatever we hope to find. And even with the imprecise nature of our tools, we join up and embrace in the darkness that can be a very large world. But we do it with the strength of two, or three, or more.
This weekend I witnessed a young man in line in front of Bob and I waiting for autographs. He was carrying an iPod, occasionally hitting record on it and speaking in to it with his version of well-known movie lines. At one point he even rick-rolled us by speaking the words to Never Gonna Give You Up. (I plugged my ears and very maturely chanted "Lalalalalala laaaaa lalalalaaaaa!!!" for the duration). He spoke with the girl behind him concerning various things, and I noted he was looking for anybody who looked at him while he was talking. Flashing his lights. Floating in the dark.
He was rude, but unaware of his rudeness. He was arrogant, and probably unaware of that as well. When a young girl behind us decided to engage him in conversation and showed him her yaoi paddle, he snorted and declared "I've got better things to read than that...I've got classic manga from..." then he rattled off a list of people I vaguely remembered based on some research I'd done a few months ago. He was so rude I actually snorted in surprise and turned away, feeling a connection to that behavior that I really didn't want to acknowledge. The young girl tucked her yaoi paddle under her arm protectively and withdrew back to her group of friends, all of whom murmured about him and how nasty he was. More flashes in the dark, and this time a flash misread. I felt so bad for her because of how her attempt at friendliness had been smacked down by the clueless wonder who was still talking about what he knew and his superior reading choices, but this time focusing on the girl directly behind him who had made eye contact in a moment of shock at his tone. But at the same time I felt bad for him because he had no idea he was distancing himself from those around him with his actions. He was completely unobservant about his own behavior, or the fact that the reason he was now so desperate to make contact was because he himself was driving the contact away. More flashes, frantic flashes, in the dark. He just wanted to talk to somebody about what was in his head and what he knew. And he had no concept of what was outside of it, or how to integrate and accept what others knew when they came to him. Almost painful to watch, I nursed that small throbbing ember inside me that remembered childhood and teenage-dom spent that way. He was rude. He had an inflated opinion of himself. But you had to feel bad. He was the only one in that world he'd built up around himself, and he was stumbling all over his attempts to step outside of it or draw people in. My compassion waned, however, when he attempted to talk directly to me and I didn't know what movie he was referencing. "Nevermind," he growled, rolling his eyes and turning his iPod up, "Some people just don't do pop culture. I don't tend to talk to them too much."
I avoided him later when I saw him watching a demo, his iPod still in his ears. Not because I was mad at him for how he treated me. But because he was like me, and it was very, very hard to look at.
Finishing up our ice cream back at the outdoor tables of Maggie Moo's, I smiled at those little fireflies dancing and flashing and looking to find each other. There was something comforting about them and about how they were always there. Summers could come and go and they would rise from the grass to dance in the evening and bring about thoughts of sylphs and elves. Simple communication that had been there long before we'd shown up in that place, and simple communication that would be here after we moved on. Those little flashes in the dark whisper quietly that all you have to do in the world is give it a shot and reach out. There's more than one searching the very same way, and at some point you'll bump in to each other. At some point you'll be rick-rolled by an annoying fanboi in a crowd of a thousand. At some point you'll talk with beautiful, wonderful people with flaws that make them glorious and human. And at some point you'll find whoever else is looking back through the dark to find you.