The night was black. High above me, a tiny aircraft twinkled, light blinking on and off, a moving diamond in the sky, clear and shining on the velvet backdrop.
I felt a tug deep within, the call of summer nights past.
Stars were brighter when I was a child, the night darker. The air was warm and fragrant with flowers, sage, rain and ozone. We ran wild in the dark, kicking up the light desert dust, neighborhood games of hide and seek in full spate, hands smacking against damp arms and backs as It tried to tag those seeking home. Lightning might flicker in the distance, illuminating a mountain ridge, igniting a small fire, tiny flare far away, while the trees tossed in the heavy breeze, a harbinger of a midnight monsoon. Some nights the moon played hide and seek with us, ducking behind a cloud and then dodging out to light our game once again.
Panting laughter accompanied the running feet. At least until the shriek of someone running into a cactus or a tree branch.
Later, we'd sprawl on lawn chairs, ridged plastic digging into our legs and backs, our feet, newly released from shoes, throbbing from contact with stones and stickers. We'd watch meteors fly overhead, try to keep count of the falling stars, our murmurs a soft counterpoint to the noisy insect chorus of buzzes and chirrups. From the trees, the mockingbird offered his insistent song of courtship. On rainy nights, when the toads emerged from their muddy burrows, they'd add their peculiarly goat-like call to the orchestra.
But on the clearest nights, the stars sparkled overhead like a gem-laden necklace, all cool blues and fiery reds, our own display window, finer than any jeweler could even hope to imagine.
Kids would drift off, promises to regroup the next night, resume our game. After the freedom of the open air, the house always felt tiny, restrictive. The incandescent lights seemed somehow false after the night, the air within those walls stale and uninviting. My body yearned after the expanse of outside, opened with a desire for infinity. I was uncontainable. I held worlds, galaxies, within the sphere of my being. Everything was possible in the space of a summer night.
Before I pulled the curtains closed, I watched that tiny diamond move across the sky and I felt something reach down into my center, pulling that child to the surface. My soul unfolded up and out, stretching out for miles, touching everything and everyone I've ever loved.
Go listen to some good music: "Bridge Burning" from the album Wasting Light by Foo Fighters. Sometimes our bridges are burned out from under us. This can be called adulthood, responsibility, circumstance. Those nights were magic, and sometimes still, I feel what I felt then, the prickle that tells me the world is alive and waiting.