My family had an annual tradition for the 4th of July—we would gather at my grandparents' lake house and build these themed (usually politically) firework displays, present them to a raucous crowd of family-friends, then one-by-one douse them in lighter fluid, click the lighter, and run, hoping that this year the rockets wouldn't fire directly into the crowd again. For many years, when I was a good little family lackey, I would participate, building my own display and presenting it despite hating both the loud noise and public speaking. When it was time to set the danger boxes ablaze, I would go hide in the house, observing the fireworks safely from the window and with the company of my grandmother. But I always had to come out for my display. Otherwise I'd get the dreaded “Where's (deadname)?!” calls from various crowd members until someone thought to come search the cabin and give me some variation of a Get On Out Here demand that I had no idea how to refuse. So I Got On Out There for however long it took for the adults to lose interest in me and no longer notice if I slipped back into the quiet sanctuary of the cabin.
I awoke from a nap this 4th of July with the shades drawn and the windows dark. It was 9pm, and my two cats were growling at the distant firework pops. I looked around my quiet little studio, my comfort fan humming and my flag waving lazily in the artificial breeze. I found myself feeling sad.