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night bugs

Lit a fire in a large hearth, out back in the large yard of a borrowed home, and no one came out to join me after a glass of celebratory wine at dinner. No matter. I enjoyed watching the slow drapes of flame nerve their way up the side of the old logs, half torched from a previous evening, mosquitoes in the air, socks rolled up to the knees.

As always, distraction. Found myself caught not by my new fire but by a street lamp perhaps 200m away, over the fence, a few roads off. Insects darting in and out of its down-cone of light, but each bug lighting up in a way that made it hard to judge where the cone ended and the night began.

Different areas of appearance, some appearing to be on fire too far from the lamp to make sense, but how could they be generating their own furnace in the air, how could this not be reflection? Some bombed in and out of vision like nighthags. Others styled themselves as gentle embers, dozed in zig zags up towards the bulb then dizzied out of shot. Some too fast and some too slow for you to really believe in them.

As with all winged forms flashing into a brief evening, I thought of humans and our theories of success and failure, fame and obscurity. I thought of the bulk of bugs outside the cone of light, bundling in the pitch, rarely seen and hardly ever heard unless in chorus. What about the street lamp? Well, the human gaze, of course, roaming through the post-sun atmosphere like a submarine's beacon, nosing through the tides of insects, occasionally catching a wing as it wraiths on by.

The thing is, no matter how sharp the light reflected, the bugs that glisten and dart like diamond scars, no matter how impressive their brief presence, or how confusing their phosphorescence, you never remembered them beyond the moments they were there. It was impossible. I can't remember a single bug. Bright as the polestar or invisible to the point of being unborn - all part of the same spectacle, indivisible, hardly present at all.

I came to realising my own fire was sagging and that I was being eaten alive through my thin clothes. A couple of cute slugs had drooped their way into my wine glass, pissed and poisoned by the fumes. I resisted the urge to tip them into the fire, settled for imagining the sizzle and pop they might make, a final carnival act in an empty yard, opted instead to throw them onto the dark lawn, its own invisible stage, let them try their luck out there, far from any street lamp, senses no doubt spinning from the fall.

Parakai 031122