By Daniel Clausen

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Magic. You want it to be there forever. It’s like that time when you’re six years old and you find yourself in first grade with your favorite teacher with your favorite book and you’re transported to a different place; that time when you’re lost out on the beach making sandcastles with your monster friends; it’s drinking wine in a temple with your friends on top of a mountain on the other side of the world.

When you find it, you want to wrap yourself in it. This is what love is. You spend Friday nights going out with friends, doing harmless things like drinking in parks or hanging out at your favorite bar. Your job is nothing to brag about, but you’re not the type to brag anyway. But it’s not just magic. It’s also about the feeling. Feeling safe enough to wrap yourself in the simple pleasure of the moment. How long can I hold onto this magic? Does it have a limit or can it go on forever?

I spit water and unwrap seaweed from my body. I cling to the sand for a moment with weak muscles. When the water exits, something new fills my lungs. And when I look up, for the first time I can feel a world empty of cats and full of fireflies. They fly around me, their light, something akin to optimism, shines down and illuminates my way. Somewhere out of the water, my shadow follows tentatively.

“Where am I going?” I ask the fireflies, and the movement of their light in the night air gives me the impression they are talking amongst themselves.

The beach is only a narrow strip of sand. I soon find I’m climbing up the mountain. The path is narrow and hard to see, but the fireflies light my way.

Where am I? I think. Have I made it to the island? The aching in my muscles from the swim is gone. Even my knee feels better. The aches and pains from old injuries go away. The light from the fireflies fills me with purpose.

As I walk up the mountain, I find my memories being rearranged. The lonely anger of my early years soon fills itself with friends―tough ones, smart ones, scrappy ones. Did I have a high school sweetheart? Yeah, I had one of those too.

With light feet, I make my way up the mountain, working through my memories, all the way up to the triumph of my college scholarship. Somehow, I think I should have parents to celebrate this with―but they don’t appear. I don’t feel any sadness, though, because my foster mother Susan is there. When I see her, there is a pain where my heart is supposed to be. Even this quickly passes. I know now that she’s going to live a long and happy life. That we will have our arguments, our misunderstandings, and that we’ll have to work through these things, forever and ever, with only the kind of tension that the two of us can share.

The path ends, and I make my way into a mountain town. Quiet and empty, the only place it seems to exist is in my imagination. I walk past the post office, the dry goods store, a small schoolhouse, and some modest houses. Eventually, I find a little traveler’s inn. A two-story building made out of wood. Without a word, I make my way to the door.

A note has been left for me, and in beautiful calligraphy someone has written “Welcome.” The door is open, so I walk in and up the stairs. I shuffle my way up to my room. Somehow I know that the middle one close to the end is mine. The moonlight seeps in and makes everything vaguely visible. The little wooden room has a small western-style bed, and by the window are kids’ books. When I lie down near the window somehow my body feels lighter. My body loses all its substance. My memories, my burdens, my fears, all slip away, and I become a tiny firefly floating toward the sky. I drift upward and upward, and before I know it, I’m out the window, watching myself sleep. I continue to drift upward into the night sky, toward the moon. It’s made of cheddar cheese and somewhere in one of its craters, Peter Pan lies in a hammock dreaming of an American boy living on an island on the other side of the world. And in my mind, content, I think: I knew all along this is the way the world really is.

– Daniel Clausen