Magic Realism in Cos Cob
Although Dale and I are both senior citizens, we rarely go to bed before 12:30 or 1:00 in the morning. Once under the covers, our usual night time routine includes a limited recapping of the day, working on the Sunday New York Times Crossword puzzle, interrupted by drowsy, cottony kisses; and then my reading out loud of a few pages from a novel. Last night was no exception.
Although the low, steady hum of the air conditioner accompanying my droning voice and Dale’s soft, slow, lamb’s wool breathing signaled it was time to turn out the lights, I wasn’t quite ready to join her in sleep. Still thinking about the passages I had just read, I lay on my back, instead of turning on my left side. In the darkness of our small bedroom, made
almost impenetrable by the tightly drawn wide, wooden venetian blinds, I too began to feel the effects of the long hot day and the hypnotic throb of the air conditioner. As my velvet reverie turned my wakefulness into smooth dreaminess, I was
startled back awake by a bright, yellow-green light, the size of a milk weed seed, pulsing on the wall in front of our bed.
At first, I imagined it was the light from our tv’s black box. Because of the day time heat and its demands on the local power grid, we had a outage in the late afternoon. For a brief, floating moment, I imagined the set had finally rebooted itself. A nanosecond later, there appeared a second, then a third, then a fourth pulsing and now rapidly diving light appeared. Suddenly I was wide awake and completely uncertain about what I was seeing. My abrupt, spasmodic movements in bed as I twisted to lift myself up from my horizontal position, awakened Dale. Roused now from her light REM sleep when my toes kicked her calf , she sat up, emitting a soft rumbling sound as she reacted to a low ying, light- discharging object just above her nose.
We were now both upright. At first we sat in wordless wonderment watching the arcing, swallow-like swooping traces of six, seven or more pulsing yellow-green neon lights as they moved first above us, then at face level in our bedroom. Baffled, but not frightened, we finally broke our bewildered silence trying quickly to figure out what we were watching. We decided to turn the lights on to locate and see if we could recognize the unidentified flying objects. Dale from the right side and I from the left of the bed struggled to our feet as our eyes adjusted to the suddenly illuminated room. We saw diminutive, black cigar shaped insects. The previously pulsing objects had gone dark. Some of them were stuck to the bedroom walls while others continued to y past us. We recognized the intruders now— fire flies.
We quickly turned out the lights. We sat on the edge of our bed watching in spellbound fascination as the light wizards of darkness returned to fill our bedroom with their flying, pulsing dances. I mused to Dale that I hoped we weren’t about to be consumed by them, remembering a graduate seminar on the mythic man-consuming Mayan fire flies of Guatemalan novelist Miguel Angel Asturias’s novel, Men of Maize.
The fire flies did not burn us up. Although we did not tire of our magic realism bedroom light show, we were now age- appropriately tired at 2:00 a.m. We turned on the overheads. We carefully scooped up each of the seven fire flies, opened a screen window in our hallway, and one-by-one we set them free; watching them bestow the humid July night air with
their mysterious glow. Sleep came quickly for the two of us.