Love & Fireworks

A story by Tommy “Love & Fireworks” Paley

The fireworks lit up the sky as he lay on the beach in his shorts and flip flops staring up at the lights. He loved staring at lights, he always had. It was becoming a bit of a problem.

He felt something inside as the fireworks exploded in the sky, but, in his tired state, he wasn’t sure exactly what. Envy, perhaps? Jealously? He could never be certain which of the two he felt, especially when he was emotional, and for that he blamed his sister. God, he was jealous of her, or was it envy?

And as he lay there, tired from a full day in the sun, his thoughts drifted to Diane. Sweet, cute, intentionally mysterious, aggressively attractive Diane. Her hair, her playful smile, her lips. She always joked that she had lips a man could fall asleep on, although he was never totally sure if she was being literal. And if she was, then what?

The fireworks cascaded above him and he felt that they, in all of their chaotic, noisy color were the perfect symbolic representation of how he felt at the moment, and he didn’t care if that made sense in anyway whatsoever. He was tired of having to explain himself to others and then for the others to look at him blankly, before resuming eating grass, and then, hours later, for it to be revealed that the others were cows all along. Sometimes he hated cows.

He longed for Diane. He loved her so much it hurt; not as much as, say, ‘accidentally’ stapling two of your fingers together — something he moronically tried once, just for comparison’s sake — but it hurt all the same. He once described their love like a runaway train that was doomed to smash to a million pieces against the side of a mountain, though he later successfully blamed that analogy on sleep apnea.

When they first met, there were fireworks everywhere they went — quiet walks in the woods, cuddled on the couch, enjoying a lazy brunch, and in the bedroom. They greatly regretted that one time they brought actual fireworks into the bedroom, blaming it on the ridiculously convincing advertisements and low low prices, though they did promise it would be something they’d tell their grandkids about, mostly as a cautionary tale. They always took expressions too literally, it was one of the reasons they first fell in love.

He cupped the sand with his hands and enjoyed the ability to hold thousands of something, anything at the same time. A wry smile momentarily broke over his wry face before he quickly shifted to a more pleasant smile as he promised her that he’d cut way back on the wry-ness. It had been such a hot day and his skin had been over-exposed to the sun, in one sense like an overexposed photo, and in another, infinitely more accurate sense, not at all like that. He realized that he was mindlessly playing with the tiny pieces of sand sort of like how he’d play with large rocks if they were only much much smaller and lighter.

In the good times with Diane, everything was amazing. He often felt like nothing would ever come between them, until she, oddly, started collecting very thin sheets of pink paper. At first the large and foreboding collection of paper was the figurative pink elephant in the room, before she actually shaped them — quite expertly he had to admit — into pink elephants. An army of them, and they were cute, until they stomped all over, and destroyed, his fleet of paper airplanes. And then, soon after, the bad times started creeping in like small rodents that she knew he was deathly afraid of which didn’t stop her converting their den into a “rat farm”.

He looked up at the sky, just wondering how the fireworks creator felt when he watched his product that he’d spent hours and hours on, only to watch it over in a few minutes. Then he wondered how the parents of that creator felt and whether they wished he’d have chosen a career they could more easily brag to their friends about. Finally he wondered about the overly smug and reprehensible friends of the parents of the creator and hoped that they had sad, miserable lives for judging the son or daughter of their friends for his or her career choice. God, he needed to get out more.

Diane often joked that she would “leave him” and that he’d wake up to find her “long gone” and that he’d wonder if she “ever existed”. He never quite understood her sense of humor, but he promised “honey, I love you”, which was also something he said to the little jar of honey in the cupboard each morning which led to her silently questioning his sanity on a daily basis. And yet, he adorably always believed that love conquers all despite her depressingly thorough and comprehensive research into the history of armed warfare which love had definitively not conquered. She was so hot when she researched thoroughly.

He looked up at the sky, just wondering if somewhere out there she was sitting on a beach, like him, wondering how he was, before quickly remembering her extreme distaste of sitting on sand that bordered on clinical. As the finale of the display caused a cheer from other viewers all around him, he lamented how negligent he’d become in the final few months of their relationship, even to the point where it was gross. Also gross, was his uncontrollable laughter at incontinence, until she forced him to finally look up some images online.

If only he hadn’t ignored the warning signs both the figurative and the actual ones she took the effort to make and display around their house and his work site. If only he hadn’t watered her and praised the garden, though, in his defense, it had been quite foggy that morning. If only he hadn’t taken her for granted, something he never thought he would do even when the high school yearbook staff had perplexingly and prophetically declared him “Most Likely Too” in his graduating year. If only he’d shown her how much he loved her more often and without the over-reliance on sock puppets.

As he sat there, among the still glowing and smoky sky, he dropped his head to cry. “There, there son,” his dad would have lovingly remarked before getting bored. His father, endearingly, reacted to all crying with both love and boredom, which made sense if you knew him as he was a big ol’ loving and boring bear of a man. And as the tears dropped onto his shorts, he thought he heard a voice, her voice, calling his name. Jumping to his feet, looking around frantically, he yelled into the night “Diane! Baby, it’s me! I’m over here! I’ve missed you!” only to realize, sadly, that it was only the wind.

“It always had been,” he said dramatically as he slowly began the long walk home.

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