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Fireworks

It had been a warm July day, but it was well past nine now and a wind had picked up. I could still taste the lingering smell of barbeque smoke from the block parties I had stopped going to long ago, the ones with the little girls and their jump ropes and the store-bought cakes with the too-sweet frosting. Below me, the rickety black staircase moaned as if the wind had aroused some deep secret, and for the first time I wondered how long it had been since someone was on this structure. Mom had warned me to never, never play on fire escapes, especially 40-year-old ones barely attached to an old brick apartment building. I sighed and continued making my way up.

This was stupid. Seth wanted me to do this, but what did he know? Seth didn’t know anything about me. Why would I risk it, when I had worked so hard to forget? Seth Keller didn’t know anything. Yet here I was, gingerly treading up a fire escape that was likely to collapse any minute just to see the fireworks. Stupid. I wish I could keep walking up the twisting staircase and into the darkness that was flung over the top of the fire escape like a wrinkled black overcoat. Just keep walking and disappear.

For ten years I had hid in my room every Fourth of July, clutching my pillow against my ear, hoping that if I pushed hard enough it would block out the booming sounds, the cheers and laughter of the boisterous crowd. The next day I would trudge to school, walking by the ashes collected on the banks of the mucky Charles River like blackened leaves. To me, they were the only thing that verified that the fireworks had even existed. I think I even forgot what a firework looked like. I made myself forget.

It took me a while to get to the top of the fire escape, and by the time I did I was out of breath. I stood there for a while, clutching the rusty black pole, breathing hard, not looking yet. Just breathing. When I did look, I had to give Seth some credit; he had said it was a nice view, and it was. The towering buildings of the city were reflected in the river, frozen there in the rippling waves bathed in silver from the moon. I probably had the best view in all of Boston. Right here from my fire escape. I had a few minutes before the fireworks started, so I waited. Stared at the innumerable stars through my tangled bangs and wondered if I was insane, wondered why I was doing this, but waited all the same.

Boom. A deep bass rumbled, then crack and a flash of red light lit up the darkness, dribbling down the black sky like icing dripping down the side of a cake. In the burst of red, I saw what I had worked so hard to forget. I saw a broad shouldered, handsome man, with a huge grin and one of those old tattered Red Sox shirts that devoted fans can’t bear to part with. I saw a little girl, saw him swing her in his arms, heard her laughter. And then I saw them sitting together by the river, watching the bursts of light trickle down the sky, him holding her in his strong arms, telling her that she was his little girl.

He left us, or they took us away from him. I don’t know which. I remember my mother with one of those old social workers with the huge glasses who look like they hate their jobs, and words like “alcoholic” and “violence”. I didn’t know what those words meant when I was four.

Boom. Crack. Another firework lit up the sky, this one green and exploding into a million sparks of fire. The memories were so real, so vivid. Could I still love him, after all he did to us? The fireworks were there, after all. It wasn’t just ashes.

And Seth. Seth was the one who told me to do this. Seth Keller, my best friend since Kindergarten. Seth, who played Monopoly with me on rainy Tuesdays when my mom worked late, who taught me to play the guitar, who suffered through biology with me, who became popular in ninth grade but still hung on to me, the scrawny girl with the tangled brown hair. Seth, the only one I told about my dad.

Did Seth watch the fireworks? I realized I didn’t know much about Seth’s life, what he went through. I was too busy worrying about mine.

Boom. Crack. Boom. Crack. The fireworks flashed again and again, red, blue, purple, and green mixing into a blur of dazzling colors. Seth should be here with me. It was right, somehow. I turned away, but I could still picture the fireworks in my head. I hadn’t really forgotten them; they were always there, playing on the back of my eyelids like that dream you can’t stop remembering, even after you’re awake. And they would be there when I got back. I was sure of that. Smiling for the first time in years, I made my way to the top of the stairs and started the long trip down to get Seth.





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GraceKelly said...
Oct. 18, 2010 at 1:05 am
I love the way you can explain the fireworks with such descriptiveness. With each of your words I can picture the different colors and sizes. I think the fact that you added the information about Seth to the story added a lot to it. Rather that just having an essay about fireworks. All in all, I reallly enjoyed your essay. Keep writing :)
 
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