Burn

Faith Leatherman

 

I stuck my head out of the bedroom window turning my neck slowly to the right, the rotting wood of the window base groaning as I leaned my sweating palms onto it. I could feel the anger, the power. I could feel the heat. It hit my right cheek like a hard slap, the kind that burned for a while after and left you feeling embarrassed and ashamed. I turned my body away from the scene, my mind however stayed clinging onto it. Every time I blinked it would snap back into my vision with full force.

 

As my back slid down the harsh wall, my focus turning away from the flames, I could finally feel the tears sliding down my cheek. They felt like drops of water hitting a pan on a stove, sizzling and dying out before they could fall from my face. I pushed myself off of the old blue carpeting feeling the fibers scratch the pads of my fingertips. It took all the strength I still possessed to straighten my legs and walk through the doorway. I had to continue to coach myself through the walk down the stairs. Right, left, right, straighten, bend, last step, turn, until I reached the porch. The stars seemed to light up the sky like the large fluorescent signs above strip clubs off the highway, so bright, yet so lonely. Still, the dark night held me, mysteriously comforting. As I reached the spectacle that had once been a home I wrapped my arms around my waist, digging into my flesh with my fingernails. This was the house falling apart. Not me.

My long sleeved nightgown rustled around my ankles, tickling them like the tall grass I had run through in the summer back home. It had been warm there. Here it was a constant cold but not now. Now there was a bonfire large enough for a God directly in front of me, and as I felt the heat rushing over me like a wave pool of fire I imagined burning along with it, a pitiful sacrifice.

 

While I watched the hungry flames I thought back to summer. I thought back to my mom still being there to protect me in her soft tanned arms, and of my father, still sober and happy. I remembered what it must have felt like to smile in the sun, something my jaw by now most certainly had forgotten. I thought of how my mother’s lips and love had been my father’s anchor to reality instead of the bottle that had now taken permanent residence in his worn down, calloused hand. I felt my fingers brush through her hair soft and bright like the sun as I reached out to the fire as though I was offering whatever I still possessed to the flames.

 

I reopened my glossy eyes as they leaked out my pain like a broken faucet. The fire was destructively brilliant. It licked the wood softly, not seeming to make a mark until it caught aflame. The blaze traveled, hungry and needy. It enveloped the home in its fiery arms and held on just a little too tight. The house was giving in. It moaned in pain and I cried along with it. The scene scorched my eyes, the home looking more immense and glaring than the sun itself, the colors steadily fading into an ebony ash.

 

I felt sorry for the old home but it had been too weak to escape. I knew how it felt to get trapped into something and before you know it you’re burned alive. I stood there, alone, while no one came. It was the only house in miles from ours but it was lacking owners. It had been long forgotten as I’d watched the gray paint chip and chimney fall over the years, knowing there must’ve been a time that it had been freshly painted and how a family must have sat around the fireplace together in love with each other and their home. I wondered how it had lit up and I concluded it must have done it to itself. No one cared anyways, it would burn to ash before my drunken father could call it in and I would let it be.

 

I think that’s what it wanted.

 

The windows continued to fill with dark, thick smoke and the only sound that

filled the night was the soft crackling of old burning wood. It was sad to think that no one was rushing to help. I could have been inside frying like the rest of the couches and chairs and no one would know for weeks. My father would lift his head from the clear pile of vomit on our wooden kitchen floor in a few days and assume I had just run off, too sick of him to inhabit the same home.

 

As many times as humans think we can solve or save everything we can’t. No one can move fast enough to fix the world and sometimes we’re too tired to even try. I fell onto my knees my white cotton nightgown turning brown and earthy. I lay onto the cold ground my hair, no longer golden like my mother’s but a dirty brown color, spread out like a large fan facing the house. I wondered what it would feel like for my dead strands to be caught by the fire. Captured and grabbed by the longing flames, wrapping its fingers into my hair, getting a good grip on it, pulling me with hands into its warmth. How the smoke could twist around over my mouth, wrapping me up like a blanket and smothering me with its ashy hands, clasped tight over my lips until all air and life had left me. Then once I lay there weak and unmoving how it could devour me as it had the home.

 

But it wasn’t me the fire wanted, so I lay there feeling the heat so close as my tears ran like waterfalls wishing they were enough to make it all stop.

 

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