The magic hour of nightfall approaches. She pulls me by the hand with the urgency of the moon tugging on the sea. Fireflies blink on and off like stars in the Galactic night. Their glowing tails light the trail to a house decaying in the forest solitude.
We open the door as our phosphorescent friends shed light on the dust motes which are suspended in a silent dance. Wrinkled boots hang pendulously from rusty nails. A salt caked jar sparkles like a pauper’s chandelier. The little-winged lanterns shed light on the dresser that has sinuous cracks like tree limbs branching into arabesque swirls.
She opens the drawer, lifts out a book, and sets it on the dresser like an old friend. She opens the pages of her ancestors and finally, I see those who left her here to fend for herself. She holds the album open with its photographs that are brown around the edges. She points to the image of a young woman with love written in her smile. “Mada, mada” is her reverential refrain for mother.
But I wonder why she chose to bring me here at night rather than in the light of day. This mystery is revealed when she points at the blink of our tail haloed friends and says, “Good, good, good.” My background in linguistics helps me understand her meaning as, God. For her, these tiny suns provide a religious experience.
Suddenly her tears shimmer like pearls. She yells, “No Mada, No.” Then she raises her arms up like she is aiming a rifle. It becomes clear that her parents were taken away by soldiers. I hold her until her trembling subsides.
I point to one firefly and say, “Mada.” Then my finger follows another with my word, “Dada.” A rose-red smile blooms on her lips in the bones of the night. Their phosphorescence becomes the spirit light of her parents transfigured into angels. I hug her with the knowledge that she will need my love to heal and the devotion to see her through on her journey.
She leafs through the memory book like a companion with images of a family she must barely remember. As she points excitedly at the people in the album our floating flashbulb friends let me see the joy in her face as though she were a soul rising in ecstasy from purgatory into heaven to be reunited with her loved ones.