The first time I flew on an airplane I thought I was going to die. I’m not certain why I thought this, but I did. I was 16 years old and had won the South Carolina theatre one act play competition with my fellow thespian Scott J. We were flying to compete in regionals in Louisville, Kentucky. I had never flown on an airplane and therefore assumed I would die. This may give you some indication of my overall level of optimism. Some kids would have feared failing at the competition, I’d assumed I’d die.
The play was “Where have All the Lightning Bugs Gone?”. As far as I remember it was a beautifully written one act. The story of two young lovers affair and eventual marriage as told through the letters they wrote to each other. Spolier alert:The man goes off to the Vietnam War and dies. Sadly, I don’t really remember the significance of the lightening bugs, only that they were referred to as “God’s own moonbeams”.
We didn’t win the competition. But I did meet a Ringling Bros. clown on the flight home. Because this was about the most unusual experience I’d had in my short life, I interpreted this as my “death”. Stay with me. I thought I was to begin a new life as a clown. Yes, I was actually that impressionable and that desperate to find some external answer to the question, “Who am I ?”. I wish you all could have been there when I told my parents I was not going to college, but to clown school. Turns out you have to be able to juggle to get into clown school. I can’t juggle and obviously wasn’t committed enough to my rebirth to try.
We flew home. I didn’t die. However on the flight home we flew through a Twilight Zone type thunderstorm. Lightening popped all around as the airplane was thrashed about. I waited to see if a demon appeared on the wing, or if the clown seemed worried. Neither happened. We landed safely in Atlanta and my life went on relatively normally.
Last night I found the lightening bugs again. There was no clown this time though. Just hundreds of ghostly yellow flashing lights in a pitch black field. A drenching thunderstorm had just passed over and the air felt alive. I felt alive. A fog has begun to lift in my life. Maybe I should re-read that play and see what the lightening bugs symbolized. Maybe I should learn to juggle. Or perhaps I should just stop and enjoy the feeling.