One recent evening, on the woody outskirts of Lewiston, I drove past a group of people who had their eyes upturned to the darkened skies.

I recognized the scene at once. The fingers pointed at the heavens; the low-hanging jaws, the wide eyes … What we had here was a UFO sighting in progress.

I kept on driving.

Stupid UFOs. I’ve been burned too many times to fall for it again. My telescope is in the basement, wearing dust like a coat. My funny hat with the green antennas was sold at a lawn sale and I used the “I Want to Believe” X-Files poster to line the bottom of my degu cage.

That ought to teach those elusive, many-eyed extraterrestrials.

Pardon my rancor. When I was a kid, I was so sure that a UFO encounter was in my future, I used to plan my days around it. I’d love to go to the movies with you, Sally-Ann, but you can’t see the sky from inside the theater and I don’t want to miss the mothership.

I’d stand out in my backyard most nights, not merely hoping to see an unidentified craft but counting on it. Aaaany minute now, the awesome spaceship would appear overhead, with its many blinking lights, its low hum and its bug-eyed faces staring out from the … I dunno. Windows, or something.

The false alarms were many.

Mothership! No, wait. It’s a firefly.

Alien craft! Nope. That’s my stupid brother, throwing sparklers into the trees and blowing his kazoo.

Romulans! No, that’s a bat. And that’s an ordinary airplane, and that over there is a stupid red light, blinking atop an unexciting radio tower. Mundane, earthbound objects were always causing false positives, providing brief excitement, but nothing like the life-changing awe that would come upon me when the REAL cosmic travelers arrived.

Sally-Ann grew up, got her boobs, went to college, got married and disappeared into the fog of adulthood. My brother lost the kazoo, went out drinking, got his boobs and left for Spain.

Me, I lived for two summers in a tent in a dark spot where I could always see the star-cluttered skies. For two summers, I sat out next to a campfire, gazing upward and pontificating to my tentmate about the inevitability of extraterrestrial visitation. I stayed up until the dawn’s early light, watching and waiting. More often than not, I’d discover that my tentmate, a patient lass named Kim, had fallen asleep, had wandered away or had not been there in the first place.

Stupid UFOs. Other than the fireflies and the kazoo, there were never even any close calls. No swamp gas, no weather balloons, no Greg Brady with a flashlight and a sheet of plastic. Or was that the ghost episode? No matter. I spent countless nights with my eyes looking upward instead of outward, and God only knows what wonders I missed in this world because of it.

When I came to work at the newspaper, I investigated UFO sightings aplenty, with traces of my old certainty that they would come. HUNDREDS REPORT STRANGE LIGHTS, SOUNDS ACROSS ANDROSCOGGIN COUNTY!

That turned out to be some hot shot Air Force pilot, buzzing his father’s house in Auburn.

GROUP SPOTS BLINKING LIGHTS IN THE SKY OVER FERRY ROAD IN LEWISTON!

Ordinary planes from an ordinary air station a few ordinary miles away.

AUBURN MAN REPORTS ALIEN ENCOUNTER!

Just a drunk guy who had stumbled into an arcade.

I traveled to Area 51 in Nevada and all I got was a lousy T-shirt. I spent more nights in a tent in the darkest parts of the world and all I got were bug bites and cold feet.

And so on and so forth. No UFOs for this guy.

When visitors from another galaxy finally do arrive, they’ll get no love from me. I won’t shake their nine-fingered hands or listen to their telepathically uttered explanations. I won’t go for rides on their anti-gravity space-o-cycles or accept their cures for aging. Not this time, spaceman. I’m over it.

I just hope that Sally-Ann can find it in her heart to forgive me.

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