“If you flash your car lights in the field, or smoke a cigarette, they’ll light up more,” he said in Japanese as he flicked his lighter almost casually to light his cigarette.

I didn’t know if it was true or if it was simply coincidence, but the slight flickering in the fields suddenly steadied.

It was my first (and I suspect, last) time seeing fireflies (apparently, they don’t exist in California, and are also gradually disappearing throughout the world), and they struck me as a kind of melancholy, at once magical and stark. It began to rain in earnest, but still we stood, mesmerized by those small glittering stars.