For one week every summer, thousands of people migrate down to the water’s edge, flooding the beaches for the annual “Celebration of Light”, a yearly fireworks competition involving three countries competing for the privilege of putting on the finest light show. Each country designs their own display and fires them off to a carefully chosen piece of music to accompany the beauty of their spectacular pyrotechnics. We stand, staring up at the hazing sky, captivated by the magnificent blaze set against the inky night. I watch them burst, exploding into a myriad of color – red, orange, green, pink, purple white and blue. With each fiery explosion, I feel a twinge in my joints, associating their hot eruptions with the burning flares of arthritis. The arthritis flare is a hot rolling wave swelling beneath the surface, setting off flash fires and lighting my translucent skin with a crimson hue. It feels like my joints are hoarding tiny volcanoes beneath the surface, just waiting for that spark to ignite and set them off like fireworks in the night. Bang! Pop! Pow! It seems like when one joint blazes, it triggers all of them. One by one they detonate their intense spark until they are singing in chorus and we can only wait until they’ve burned through their ammunition leaving behind the smouldering remains of their feverish performance. The crackling resonance sends fierce vibrations through my body, masked only by the raucous applause and “oohs” and “aahs” of a delighted audience.
As I stare up at the sky bursting with vibrant sparks, the phrase “I’m on fire” comes to mind. This expression usually refers to a magnificent burst of energy and efficiency – similar to the intense force of an exploding firework. That phrase has a different meaning for folks with arthritis. You can bet when we say we are on fire, we are not referring to the efficiency of our efforts. No, we are talking about the inflammation of our joints and the roiling magma our blood becomes as it explodes beneath the surface. Our fireworks differ significantly from the beautiful artistry filling the sky.
When the last explosion shatters the evening, we are gradually exposed to the cool refreshing night lingering beneath the smoky residue washing out the twinkling light of the stars; it’s a place where we find relief after the pinwheels of heat evaporate, wafting into the cool shade of nightfall. Fireworks are beautiful and spectacular when set against the night sky, dressing the darkness in brilliant flashes of hot color and that’s where they belong, a stunning exhibition in the heavens far away from our earthly body.
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J.G. Chayko is a writer, actress, and international arthritis advocate who’s been involved in theatre for more than 30 years and has published poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction.