When I was about 6 years old, the house next door was struck by lightning. I don't remember the sound, the zap of pure electricity hitting a man-made shelter, but it must've been significant. Or perhaps it was not the sound of the lightning bolt but rather the repercussion, a crumbling roof and the chimney's collapsing on the cars below, that sent all the neighbors bolting from their homes. I don't remember the sound, but I remember the scene.
Never one to go to bed before my old man crush Johnny Carson did his "Tonight Show" monologue, I was still awake when lightning struck. My parents and other neighbors ran from their homes and into the rain to help remove the sleeping children from the struck home and answer the firefighters' questions. Lighting crashed all around them. I stayed shielded from the rain by my porch roof, standing there in my pajamas and barefoot, terrified. I screamed for my dad. He quickly ran over to the porch and said, "Don't worry; lightning never strikes the same place twice." Then he ran back next door.
Great, so lightning will move on to hit the house next door, where I am!
It's been a long time since I've been able to stay awake late enough to watch the "Tonight Show" monologue. Life of late has consisted of fighting two kids through bedtime routines and then collapsing on my own bed at an hour so early that teenage me would probably curse out current me. At least she would have rolled her eyes consistently and said something snarky like, "Wow, you made it to 8:30. You want a cookie?"
So when my best college girls said they were heading to Italy for our friend's wedding, I imagined being tucked in by the late hour of 9 while they danced to Avril Lavigne and Nelly. There is no way I could keep up with my childless friends, the ladies whom I had once considered soul mates but whose lives now seemed so drastically different from my own. Did I really want to spend money simply to have my loser status confirmed?
It was exactly for this reason that I decided I needed to go.
On our first night, we sat on the terrace of our Airbnb, laughing heartily as we jotted down memories in a gift box for our best bride.
The next days brought these ancient friends through the ancient cities. We bought pope bobbleheads, dressed like gladiators, learned to make pasta and screamed as worms jumped out of a delicacy cheese we were offered and continued to jump around the table.
At the wedding, when my feet were aching and my postnatal pelvic floor was dangerously close to giving out if I jumped any more, my friend pulled me off the chair and said, "You have two choices in life: You can do nothing, or you can dance."
I got up.
We saw the sun come up each morning. And we drank, and we ate, and we may have accidentally set the rental car on fire.
But wasn't fire exactly what I was seeking? A spark?
After my dad left me on the porch that night lightning struck, I screamed -- crying and calling out into the thundering night. But as I waited for an answer that never came, something happened. I couldn't say when or exactly how. I think it began because I was jumping up and down, trying to keep my cold bare feet off the frozen porch. But the jumping turned into swaying. And then into spinning. And by the time the chaos had calmed, I was dancing alone in the rain, holding out my hand to the lightning, daring it to strike.
On my last night in Rome, there was a lightning storm like one I have never seen. The sky was clear, with not a single raindrop, but the thunder boomed as lightning bore down on all sides of us. Bolts so close they were blinding. And on the terrace on the top floor of the city apartment, in the very spot that my friends and I had spent the previous evening jotting down memories of the people we once were, we danced -- jumping up and down in the center of the light show, holding out our hands and clicking our cameras as the Roman gods flexed their muscles for us.
I caught a photo of the zigzagging current across from us.
I captured my spark.
Katiedid Langrock is author of the book "Stop Farting in the Pyramids," available at http://www.creators.com/books/stop-farting-in-the-pyramids. Like Katiedid Langrock on Facebook, at http://www.facebook.com/katiedidhumor. To find out more about her and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.