"How long ago was it? Well, probably forty years, if you figure that I was five or six years old at the time -- I was in first grade -- and now...well, you can do the math. To be honest, it's not something I think about very often, but it's not like I don't think about it, either, because that's how my mind works. I don't consider myself unusual in that regard, either. I mean, I'm reaching an age when I have 'senior moments' -- like I can't remember a word or a phrase or even the name of someone I've worked with for ten years (I wish I was kidding about that, but I'm not), but if you ask me to remember how I felt when something happened in first grade -- and I don't mean just the thing we're here to talk about, although there is that -- it's like it happened yesterday. Like I can remember the shirt I was wearing, it was red with an orange bicycle on it, and not a regular bicycle, but one of those old-fashioned ones with a gigantic front wheel and a tiny back one, or is it the other way around? I could never understand why someone invented a bicycle and decided to make the wheels so different. It just goes to show that even the smartest people have some dumb ideas sometimes, although I think it's even more true that most people usually have dumb ideas and occasionally have a good one. Anyway, so many memories from that time in my life are still there, and I guess that's why I was willing to talk about what happened, because a lot of things from back then still feel...'critical' I guess is the word. Life shaped me when I was six, it seemed important to understand, maybe even monumental. Whereas now it's still not like I know that much, but I don't have the same desire to learn or curiosity, either. You learn that life is risky. I just want to sit by the biggest body of water I can find -- and it doesn't have to be the ocean, although that's always my first pick, but a pool can be pretty good, depending -- and watch the light reflect off the ripples. That's pretty much what I live for now, which isn't to say I'm unhappy or anything, it's just that my ambitions have changed. Months and years go by and it's like nothing really ever happens, or at least not that I want to remember. I don't really want anything to happen at my age either, because let's be honest: if there's news, chances are, it's not going to be good. I'm not complaining, it's just a fact. Sometimes I think that when we're born, we're these empty vessels, just waiting to be filled with experience, and by the time forty or fifty years go by, there's just not that much we can do that's entirely new. That train is full, as my mother used to say. I never knew what she meant, either, but now I do. Plus we're all preoccupied with the basics of survival, like keeping your job and wondering how the hell you're ever going to afford retirement -- assuming you even make it that far (or even want to?) -- and whether you can 'treat yourself' to some takeout or maybe some cut flowers, even though you know they're only going to make you happy for a few hours and then be depressing as hell when they start to wilt the next day and you're like 'why did I waste $10 on those stupid flowers when they're just making me sad? Well, I know that's not what you're here to talk about, but I wanted to give you some perspective. That's something I actually have learned over the years. It's hard to take anything at face value without knowing a little bit about who's saying it and where they're coming from. Words are a lot more malleable than I ever could have imagined, I guess. "So Helen. What was her last name again? Oh right. I can't believe I forgot, especially after I just gave that huge speech about how I can recall every detail of my life at six. Oh well, it doesn't matter. What I remember about her is that she was quiet but smart. She wasn't popular but she wasn't unpopular, either. That's what I liked about her. That's how I was, too, very much in the middle. The difference between Helen and me was that she was smart. I'm not sure the teachers ever realized it, but I knew. She was someone who seemed like she knew things, but wasn't a showoff about it or anything. If the teacher called on her, she always gave the right answer, but she never raised her hand. She wasn't a teacher's pet, is the way I guess you would say it. We were friends. There was a little group of four of us, and we always got together at recess and sometimes went to each others' houses after school. We did kid stuff, mostly. We played with stuffed animals and barbies and drew pictures and sometimes played house. What a stupid game. I hate admitting that we did that, because I can't imagine a bigger waste of time, but it's obviously a lot more fun imitating adults than being one. Except for a few things, maybe. I don't know. The point is, I was friends with Helen until toward the end of first grade -- like almost the end of the school year, because it already felt like summer -- when one day I came into school and Helen wasn't there. At first it wasn't a big deal, because we just figured that she was sick or decided to stay home to watch television or something, but then a whole week went by, and we all knew that two days was pretty much the limit for faking it. And then we started to hear these stories about how Helen was 'missing,' like she had been kidnapped. I don't know exactly how we heard that, but somehow we knew. Adults never think kids know, but kids know everything. And it was scary to think about, because nobody could understand how you could be around for like an entire year and then just suddenly disappear. I still don't really understand it, to be completely honest. I think it's one of the mysteries of time that we can't even begin to really comprehend except in a very abstract way, because the passage of time and our place in it is just too maddening and unpredictable. Like here today gone tomorrow, right? How old is the universe versus how long can we expect to live in it? It's probably like not even a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a second. It's pretty daunting. We like to pretend that we're these eternal beings, when in reality we're pretty much just insects just walking around and waiting to get stepped on. "The thing is, Helen had a little brother -- I think his name was Gus -- and he was in kindergarten. Don't ask me why he came to school or even how we managed to corner him, but I remember being at recess one day and one of my friends, this girl Sharon, was like 'where's your sister?' And I'll never forget what Gus told us, because even though he was maybe five, he was also precocious like Helen, and he spoke like an adult. You know how some kids are like that. It's amazing and disturbing. And he told us that he and Helen had followed a man into the trees behind this little playground off of Riverside Drive, and they had gone down some paths and almost to the river, where the man had picked Helen up and taken her away. And we were like, why didn't you stop him, and I'll never forget what Gus said, because he looked at us with this expression of helpless incomprehension and he said that he couldn't do anything because the man who had taking Helen away was glowing. That's what I remember most, the way he said 'glowing' like he was describing the green color of the grass or the blue sky. There just wasn't any doubt, at least on his part. My friends and I didn't believe him, of course. We told him to quit lying and asked him to tell us the story probably ten times, which he did. He didn't get flustered, either, he just answered the questions, which made us feel even more frightened. It's like we wanted to make him cry but he wouldn't. "That's pretty much all I can tell you. As far as I know, they never found Helen, and the next year, Gus denied ever saying anything about a glowing man. I never forgot that first day, though, because I knew he was telling the truth, or at least his version of it, even though it made a lot less sense. Sometimes you can just tell. But it still gives me shivers to think about it. And sometimes I wonder what happened to Helen, and I hope that it was nothing bad. So now that I've answered your questions, here's one from me. Who are these glowing people anyway, and what did they want with Helen?"