The fireflies are just beginning to wink the night awake, lapping at his ankles and the bases of trees. They glimmer their way out of the long grass that’s in desperate need of a trim, adding a new layer of depth to the huge backyard behind the Spirit House.
Stuart walks through the grass, trancelike.
Ace had warned him not to walk off like this, especially not this time of year, for fear of ticks. But his head is floating with enough stone-colored pills that he can’t bring himself to worry much about that.
There is a low, hypnotic tune rolling through his head, and he’s speaking softly under his breath, trying to find lyrics that work with the sound.
“I have read a thousand sonnets, wading through my quest to find you…”
Shite. Pure shite.
And it’s no wonder: he can’t focus. All he can remember is this time last year when Murdoc would pull lawn chairs out into the yard. The grass was so much shorter then. He’d gathered the whole band around a little fire pit far back near the outermost edge of the property, where the trees began and the night seemed denser behind a small forest that bordered their yard. He’d been so full of liquor and stories and hope, proposing more tours, another single maybe. So many ideas.
Stuart wonders if he’s made any mates in prison, if he wishes he were back in America, if he wishes Stuart would call.
The fireflies are beginning to rise, yellow light splashing its way up into the lowest branches of the maples and dogwoods and the bur oaks. Stuart feels as though he is lost in a rising tide, soon this lightshow will be over his head and he will be left beneath the surface of summer’s performance.
He approaches one of the lawn chairs, rusted at the joints and faded from sun and rain after being left outside all year. He can remember the glow of the fire dimming to embers as Noodle and Russel retired for the night, Murdoc’s hand on his knee, the way his smile faltered when Stuart stared into the dying coals and murmured,
“Doesn’t this feel too easy to you?”
And then they were back in England for some work in the studio, and then Murdoc was in prison. He didn’t call for Stuart’s birthday. Stuart didn’t call for his. Stuart returned to America to write music, and every fucking song so far had been about Murdoc.
“I’m sorry,” he whispers.
Only the crickets and the katydids offer any feedback. Their chirps and buzzes blend together and he can swear that they’re singing back to him: he hears the triplets in their cadence.
“Am I losing you?” he asks, following the lead of the insects, using them as a sort of backbeat.
He looks into the forest; the fireflies are rising higher and higher, he’s drowning, slipping below them. Washed away beneath the ocean of what had gone wrong with his relationship and there it is, stinging his eyes: he still wants to be with Murdoc.
“Am I losing you? Baby, am I losing you?”
He must look like a headcase he knows, stumbling along the big backyard singing unrhymed lyrics to the trees. But it doesn’t matter. Murdoc had stood here just a year ago, unabashedly in love with him, and he had pulled back, withdrawn the hand on his knee, lost in the mire of memories of sea foam and pink plastic and years of self loathing.
It had felt too easy.
But this is worse.
“Help,” he calls out, to the trees, the katydids, the fireflies, the fucking blackblueblack sky. His face is wet and he doesn’t do anything about it. “Come back.”
Of course no one listens to him. The insects continue to rise, their light growing more and more distant from him. He turns back the way he came, sees the big house, empty save for his suitcase and the several laptops and tablets and acoustics he brought with him upon his return. A single window casts a yellow glow outwards, the light he left on in the kitchen when he finished his joint and came out here looking for inspiration. He begins stumbling backwards towards the house, needing to write some of this down.
He feels like he’s walking underwater, his steps weighted and uncoordinated, even for him.
“I was ever chasing fireflies,” he repeats to himself under his breath, over and over so he won’t forget how much he likes the sound of those words. “A useless gesture: all they do is rise.”
And he is lost beneath a current, unable to pursue them.