Have you ever had one of those moments where you feel desperately, hopelessly failed by fiction? Where you read something on a book or saw it in a movie and just believed that it was possible? I realized yesterday that I had experienced one of those moments years ago, and never fully understood what had happened.
Like most people do on the Fourth of July, I went to see the fireworks. Waiting all evening for it to get dark, we finally got to see the sky light up with sparks and colors and visual noise. It was beautiful, it really was, but I realized last night that I’m always a little disappointed by fireworks.
Why? Because of fiction.
I read fantasy books as a child, where magicians can make fireworks look like dragons, or people, or anything they wanted, really. In my head I imagined beautifully sparkling figures in reds and greens and purples, sparking and fizzling until they were cloudy outlines of themselves.
They were beautiful, and in my head, I always expected real fireworks to be able to do the same thing.
In fact, it wasn’t until I had reached an age too embarrassing to admit that I fully realized that fireworks were spherical, not just flat circles. Logically, I understood it, but I didn’t realize it until I had the time to give it some thought.
At that moment, I understood that of course fireworks can’t be shapes; they’re just colorful explosions set off at a safe distance from the earth to awe the masses. And in my heart, I was disappointed. Not because the fireworks I saw each year weren’t pretty – they were. But they weren’t what I had always wanted them to be, and the things of fiction will never be possible in real life.