July 17, 2011
One evening during my last weeks at college, Jim Gillie took me to his secret place. We drove north from the OSU campus into the suburbs of Columbus near his parents’ home and parked next to a stand of trees. Jim led me into into the woods, and helped me navigate down 20 feet of packed dirt and tree root steps, trodden into a path by years of children’s feet. At the bottom was a small sheltered glen, and surprisingly, a picnic table. No houses were visible.
Jim and I sat on the table and talked. I didn’t know why we were there, relaxing in the fading light. I didn’t know a lot about my life during this time—what was I doing, where was I going. I was floating through so I was comfortable on this bench, in these trees, seemingly without purpose.
In the dusk, the fireflies began to blink. A handful, then more. Jim said, “Just wait.”
We grew quiet, perhaps a whisper or two, as we watched the flashing intensify. Tens. Hundreds. Thousands of flickering lights. The females tucked in the long grass and perched on branches, the males swooping and swirling in the air around us. They were talking, signaling their intentions, call and response. So bright, Jim and I could see each other’s faces. I felt like I had been bewitched by a fairy spell; the magical, intimate display was like nothing I’ve seen before or since.
Our summer romance ended soon after, and Jim is long gone from my life. I’ve forgotten what he looked like, but that remarkable evening is forever in my mind—vivid, luminous.