We didn’t know until later how much you didn’t like loud sounds. Movies in the theater, the flush of most toilets, a nearby peal of thunder—all of these frightened you. There was wonder, though. You stare out the doorwall at the rain coming down, marvel at the flash of lightning that illuminates for the briefest of moments, but when the crash comes it echoes off of everything and you run to the nearest somebody’s arms for shelter. We got you headphones and a security blanket to wear to the movies, and those things plus a tub of popcorn helped you get through and enjoy it a little sometimes. We don’t have a solution for the bathroom; everything is tile; you’ll have to cope, although we’d rather you pulled your pants up before coming out.
But you’ve seen fireworks. You’ve waited up long past your bedtime with your mother and grandmother and sister and I, and when the bursts started over the lake you watched in rapt attention. I remember looking at you, your mouth open in wonder, “How is the sky doing that? Where are all of these colors coming from?” I could see them reflected in your eyes, and behind that an open-minded awe. I’ve seen it there from time to time since, but it’s never been so pronounced as it is when you’re watching the fireworks. In those moments I envy you your youth. I wish for the days when the world was someone else’s problem, and I could enjoy the display as you do now.
Peter Barlow is the author of Little Black Dots (Chatter House Press, 2017). His work has appeared in Rosebud, The MacGuffin, The Homestead Review, Red Rock Review, Underground Voices, and Per Contra. He is an adjunct professor of English at University of Detroit-Mercy.