The alarm hadn’t gone off, so had it not been for the close quarters and thin walls of our family home, none of us would probably be here today. That’s not to say our survival was some sort of miracle. It wasn’t. It was just something that happened. The days come and go, a mysterious fire eats up our furniture and family pictures but not our flesh. It happens. So it goes.
Another piece of evidence that this was not a big deal and on par with the random nature of every day life was the casualty of us standing together on the yellow lawn, yawning while the flames reached higher, then sank down again. My dad blinked, but otherwise didn’t move. His pupils red, yellow, blue, then yellow again. My sister shivered, inched toward the fire for warmth.
“Think of this like a controlled wild fire. Now there’s room for growth, where there wasn’t before.”
Anyway, it wasn’t until I was twenty-two that I would actually see my first controlled wild fire. Deep in the mountains, centuries away from my childhood home. A helicopter passed overhead and I turned my face toward the sun, closing my eyes and disappearing back to that yellow lawn, my face hot from the heat of the flames.
When I returned to the world, I toed through the ash while waves of memories bounced on my tongue. My jaw goes slack and dust dances around the air of my breath. My skins already a shade closer to grey than before, given the soot. I imagine myself as something that could be eaten alive as easily and peacefully by the flames as wood, as a home. For months, I’d been saying “my brain feels like it’s on fire” because it did. Given that I spent more time living inside my own brain than anywhere else, I couldn’t help but feel like another home was burning. Imagine: you’re curled up in an armchair, maybe you’re reading a book that reminds you of your childhood and you don’t even glance up as the flames lick away at the structures of your home like a melting Popsicle. Maybe the ceiling falls, turn the page. It’s going to be a long week. A piece of lumber fell onto my bed, now I’ve got to sleep on the floor.
And I’m considering the idea that maybe this fire wasn’t an accident. Have I been burning everything I’ve ever known to make room for new growth? The idea is calming. As if, maybe now I’m an empty field charred but still alive. With time, the growth will become evident. I will bud from the smoldering ground.