Dec 12, 2012

Because I have a thing for candles

I had grand plans today - to clean the apartment, write some letters, have a conversation that I've been putting off, finish a book that I put aside many weeks ago.

It's almost 4 pm and I've done a whole lot of nothing.

Why?  Because as I untangled myself from the sheets this morning, fumbling for the snooze button on my phone, one of my feet hit the half-packed duffel beside the bed.

When I was in Belfast, I happened upon a tiny thrift store, tucked away unobtrusively among all of the department stores and malls.  Because I enjoy the thrill of the hunt (which, on an unrelated note, is why I shop at Marshall's), I trooped on in and found a few gifts for friends and family.  Among these gifts were two locally-made candles.

A few days ago, I laid the candles on top of my duffel, because I was afraid I'd forget them.  This morning, my right foot knocked them to the floor as I rolled out of bed...and I remembered why I'd bought them in the first place.

In my home, whenever a significant need arises, we light a candle.  It's always from this beautiful church in Baltimore that we visit every few months.  We (or my parents, at least) made frequent trips when my mother was still pregnant with my brother.  The candles burned for nine months, fiery hope for a healthy baby.  (There's only one rule with these candles: you can't let them go out until the need has been resolved.)  Whenever I had an organic chemistry exam, I knew a candle would be burning on the island in the kitchen until I called to tell my mother about it.

But the most desperate kind of "need" that merits a candle is when someone is sick.

Your body had so many smaller issues that I came to expect worried phone calls from A and C every so often.  Last March was one of the bigger scares...but you came back from the hospital that time, just like always.  We always lit a candle and things always worked out in the end.

But this time, everything happened so quickly.  No one had any warning or I would've broken the apartment rules and lit my own candle, even though it would be nothing like the ones from Baltimore.  It wouldn't have that red glass that deflects the light in those dizzyingly beautiful patterns...but it would be something.

As a child, I used to watch the dancing flame and wonder if it might fix whatever problem had come up.  I know better now - that it's less a magical solution than a reminder to pray.

But a small, childish part of me still wants to believe in its magic.

Please come back.  I love you and this is wrong, all wrong.

Death is wrong and this undercurrent runs - fierce, strong, nauseating - beneath my every thought, my every action.

Even first thing in the morning, before I've fully woken up and my foot tips two candles to the ground.

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