Because of the statewide ban, we bought no fireworks.
We left my sister's house at the fullest bloom of dusk. Got in the car and we drove, drove on the highway, drove on a summer night with the windows down. That kind of free-fall driving that can cure your ailments or nurse them into heart sickness, depending which you choose. Around us, in every direction, the few professional displays that hadn't been cancelled exploded flowers in the night sky. The wind whipped my hair and we passed the glittering city. The city where my parents took me to art museums and theater in the park, to the capitol building and the Denver Mint, when I was a child. The city we cruised through as teenagers, went the wrong way down one way streets and screamed, ate quesadillas at the Pavilions, eased each others heart aches, made each other laugh to tears. The hotel where I stayed with my husband for one of our anniversaries, the pubs and microbreweries we visit in the fall, for pumpkin beer and sausages with spicy relish and brown bread. Past the bookstores, the place where we saw Wicked and Cyrano and Dracula and Les Mis, the stadium where we watched the Broncos beat the Titans empty and blazing in the night. Past the museums where we took our own children, the Six Flags they beg to visit again and again. The place where the St. Mark's coffee used to be, where at nineteen I licked whipped cream off a mocha and pretended to study on a night near Halloween, the fancy restaurant we pretended we could afford at twenty-one, the Paramount where I saw Tori Amos and had the most spiritual experience of my life at twenty-six, the beautiful Mayan, the seedy Bluebird where we made the mistake of going to a show that wasn't twenty-one and over and left, feeling old, annoyed by versions of our former selves. The Ogden, where we saw the Decemberists and walked back to our car in temperatures plummeting below zero, my hand clutched in my husband's against the cold, the busy city for just this once silent and still on a frozen night.
We'd driven down to Denver on a brutally ugly afternoon. The smoke from the wildfires covered the city and everything was yellow. Yellow sky, yellow air, parched grass yellow in the haze. Like the apocalypse without any of the glamour, like living inside a decaying mouth. The sun a red iris in an angry open eye, glowering a sickly tint onto the pavement. Now we drove in the hot wind with the windows all down and the haze began to clear. This is how it's always been. For one fleeting moment, two dark gray clouds of smoke parted open like a blackened nut and the almost-full moon shined through. It was orange, it was sherbet, it was soft tangerine.