In the Beginning, There Was Light

My memory of the night comes back in snapshots taken by an eight-year-old me. Between the pictures, there is utter blackness, dark voids of nothing.

It’s night, and we’re standing in a street that we’ve only ever driven on. The road is closed, and it’s big emptiness is vaguely unsettling but exciting. They would only stop the traffic for something important.

The sides of the street are lined with cars parked hood-to-bumper. The side streets are packed too. I have no idea how we got here -the regular route was closed. It seems both far from home, and yet, very close.

Cold. Parts of me are cold. But I can feel the warmth of my vest – it is red, puffy, and a prize-item in my wardrobe. Mom made it from scratch. It feels like wearing a hug, except my arms are chilled from the summertime fog.

We- along with an uncountable number of people- are waiting. I have no idea what for, but know that we’re supposed to be excited. I think I am. Man, it is dark. And cold. Then, there are lights, police cars with flashing, colored lights.

A car, maybe several? The headlights are blinding. There’s a crowd of silhouette people. The excitement is building. The air vibrates. Still, I am confused, not sure what is happening, what’s about to happen, or why we’re here.

I finally make out the dim shape of a runner, lit from behind by the car’s headlights. Cheers are growing louder, almost rolling down the street. The runner gets closer, emerges from the dark. The cheering, the clapping overwhelm us. And there’s the smell of something…..flammable.

Flashes of light flicker, explode, everywhere around us. And then, as quickly and inexplicably as they came, the lights, the police, the cars, the wave of cheering and clapping sweep away down the road.

It’s over. That’s it? What happened? But it’s clearly over.

We’re standing in the cold dark, which seems much darker now. I’m helping my brother hold something, for some strange reason. I don’t understand. People are looking at us, I feel special, honored. But why? A flash of light explodes in our face. I see white, and then nothing at all.

***

Twenty years later, I was flipping though our family albums, searching for images to put in a slide show.  I turned the page and my jaw fell open in astonishment. The memory came back, in pieces, with big gaps, but now illuminated by twenty-years of life experience. I couldn’t really believe what I was looking at: me and my brother, in our matching puffy red vests, holding the Olympic torch.

So….that’s how this all started.



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