My First Time With Fireflies

Living in America, I learned that if you haven’t done it at least once by the time you pass your mid-teens, you’re pretty much a joke. There’s a lot of pressure to get out there and get your first time over and done with, and if you don’t, it’s going to make for some awkward situations later in life.

As I didn’t grow up in the land of opportunity, the opportunity never presented itself, so I went on without thinking twice. However, a move to the United States showed me that I was missing out and I needed to get out there and do it before anyone found out. It was time for me to man up and catch myself some fireflies for the first time ever.

 

In America, there comes a time in every young man’s life when he must pick up the courage to leave the safety of his home and try his luck at catching one of life’s most magnificent creatures – the firefly. In New Zealand where I grew up, there are no fireflies, so naturally when I heard that there was a firefly fluttering around in the kitchen of our temporary New York abode, I got a bit excited. Rushing into the dark kitchen, I caught sight of a large, thin fly crawling on the wall near the refrigerator. After a few moments squinting into the darkness at this rather dull insect, the room suddenly filled with a yellow-green glow that came from the bug’s rear end. It must have got shy or something because after that initial burst of glow dimmed to nothing, I lost the bug in the dark and was rather disappointed until I decided to look out the window. There in the backyard were thousands of twinkling lights hovering above the dewy grass. Okay, there probably weren’t thousands, but I’m trying to paint a nice picture here. There were a lot of awesome fireflies.

An enhanced photo of the backyard with twinkling fireflies added.

I’ll say now that this scene was too exciting and too dark to get any decent photos, so most of the images you’ll find here will most likely be crude digital drawings done by me. I’ll make them as true to real life as possible though, I promise.

So with this situation in front of me, it was finally time for me to take part in this great American rite of passage. I’m pretty sure the idea is to catch as many of these glowing insects as possible in a jar and compare how many you caught with your friends. With this in mind, I couldn’t find any jars, so I armed myself with a Magic Bullet container and headed outside.

Being my first time and all, I was a bit nervous and unsure on how to approach the subject. The night was humid and dewy (the perfect conditions for catching fireflies) so there were plenty of the bugs to go for, but I just didn’t know where to start. Americans have this sort of knowledge taught to them by their fathers, and their fathers’ fathers, but the wisdom was never handed on to me. Luckily, I didn’t have to do much because soon enough a rather pretty looking firefly fluttered past me and showed me some of her glow-bits in a swift yet smooth upwards motion. I knew I was in. A calming confidence fell over my body and I just stared back into her eyes. Before she could ask me how often I frequent that backyard, I had swung my hand up and captured her with my Magic Bullet, trapping her inside with the lid (the one with the holes to sprinkle out finely grated parmesan cheese and the like). I invited my firefly inside… well actually, I took her inside as my prisoner, so I could take a proper close-up look at her in the light.

My first catch!

She had big black eyes on a pink head which was attached to a slim black body, and shiny wings that went down her back all the way to her trunk, and she most certainly had junk in her trunk – magical, glowing junk. However, before I could really examine the source of her light, the glow went out. I decided to shake the container for a bit to see if that would get her going again, but it didn’t work – she wasn’t going to perform anymore, and she wasn’t going to fake it for my benefit.

I’d done a bit of research and found that both male and female fireflies not only flash to attract mates, but that females flash to attract a different species of firefly only to eat the horny males alive. Considering the fact that she had not tried to devour me, I figured it was a sexual flash, but perhaps I misread the signals and the flash wasn’t meant for me? This situation was getting awkward. Then I thought of something else: maybe she’s just too nervous to perform? I’ll admit that if I was frolicking about naked and a giant captured me in a huge transparent vessel, I would probably have a hard time getting in the mood. The solution suddenly washed over me like a bucket of ice: I would capture another firefly in the same container so they could relate to one another and feel at ease! Then I was sure to be granted a mind-blowing concentrated glow-fest.

The anatomy of a firefly.

I immediately set my sights on another firefly that was fluttering about above a bush, frequently flashing a bit of luminous love my way. I pounced quickly; rapidly pulling the lid away, catching my second firefly in the container, and then replacing the lid before my first could escape. My heart slowly sank as my new firefly mate’s light went out. I waited for the two fireflies to forget their terror and allow their love to radiate into hot blinding passion, just like the frantic face-mash kiss by two main characters in a movie about two strangers that have just survived a day from hell after fate brought them together in a taxi cab that was hijacked by terrorists… but it didn’t happen.

Where was my amazing light show? It would seem that fireflies are rather picky when it comes to mates, and perhaps I had just put a supermodel in a cage with a midget suffering from chronic acne – one firefly is hoping his personality will carry him through, while the other is explaining in the nicest way possible that it is not going to happen. To be honest, for all I knew there were two males in there… but what were the odds of three random fireflies all being of the same sex? It was time to try to find firefly number three.

Unfortunately, catching my third proved much more difficult than my first two conquests. Using the same sly technique, I made a move on my next target with a quick flick of my wrist but when I looked at the container I only saw two fireflies and no glow action. Each time I’d try for the third one, one would escape and it seemed impossible to get at least two attractive fireflies in the container simultaneously. I was on the brink of giving up but felt that the shame of only lasting two fireflies would be too awful to bear so I would give it one more shot.

After a quick break inside to reboot my confidence, and a few press-ups and crunches to get into peak physical firefly catching condition, I emerged from the house with my Magic Bullet containing two asexual fireflies. I floated back into that backyard with the arrogant strut of a seasoned playboy, leaving a scent of cologne as I advanced. Soon enough, I was swimming in firefly, and the pickings were easy. I took aim at one particular bug that was twinkling brighter than the rest, and I attacked. In less than a second, I had my third firefly buzzing about my Magic Bullet.

As much as he hoped, a threesome was not on the cards for this bold firefly.

I peered into the container at the bugs crawling about their prison, but the lights were out. Surely I had a mix of males and females in there now! Just before I could shout in frustration and throw the container to the ground to smash into shards in an Academy Award winning outburst, one of the fireflies stopped moving. I froze to the spot, holding the vessel perfectly still, and then it happened. The new firefly looked at the other two and began to glow, as if to say, ‘Hey ladies, look. I know this is a stressful situation, but it doesn’t have to be all that bad. We could make use of this time and have some fun.’ Convinced I was about to see a brilliant display of sparkling colour in a magnificent ménage à trois, I was just as disappointed as that horny experimental bug when the other fireflies ignored the offer, and his glow dimmed to darkness, defeated.

The good news, however, was that I had captured three fireflies in a single vessel, and that was less than an embarrassing effort. Counting one, two, three fireflies, it was time to release. Opening the lid of my Magic Bullet, I let my firefly friends out and they flew out into the darkness.

They say if you love something, let it free. As it turned out, my love for those fireflies was not reciprocated, and I never heard from any of them again. I guess that’s just the way it is with peoples’ first times. Due to an obvious lack of real chemistry, I didn’t get to see a radiant glow-show within a jar, but I still got the experience. At first it seemed a little sad that no fireflies had actually flashed at me but then I took a look around me. I was standing in a backyard surrounded by flashing fireflies. Who needs to catch fireflies in a jar when you can go somewhere and see them flashing away without having to do anything? I’m sure one day I’ll want a more up close and personal encounter with one of these amazing creatures, but for now, I’m happy to sit back with a decent drink and enjoy the show. My first time was over and I could now get on with the rest of my life.

I will never forget you, firefly, for you were my first.

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