It’s there every time I go into the garage. The smell of fire. It’s there, and then I’m here:
That’s not a place I really like to be, figuratively or otherwise. In fact, it’s become a bit of a thing: I don’t drive down that part of Northshore any more, no matter how inconvenient the detour.
But I can’t avoid the garage. And the boxes of pictures and books that survived the devastation.
I’ve decided that the books will stay in the garage. We will put them on shelves, and whenever I decide to read one I will attempt to clean it then. Occasionally I will pick one up and flip through it, and leave the garage with sooty hands that smell of fire.
Then there is the box of photo albums and baby books, miraculously rescued from a cabinet in the office. The pictures need to be removed from the albums. They are probably deteriorating. I can’t make myself do it. Emily will finish the job she began over Christmas this summer, I’m sure.
Right after the fire I worried that I would always be haunted by the smell of burning, that I would never be able to enjoy the scent of a campfire again. But that’s not the case. Campfires, smoke from a barbecue, the aroma of someone’s fireplace in winter, even the mulch fire running amok near downtown right now–that doesn’t bother me. It’s the singular scent of our own personal fire that I find uniquely disturbing.
Seven months later it both seems long ago and very close, especially when another loss makes itself felt, when I suddenly think of something that I have only no, I don’t have it anymore. It’s a little joke around here, saying, “I had that, but IT BURNED UP!” But there’s a morbid part of me that keeps me lying awake some nights going room by room (not of the burned house, which to be honest never really felt like home, but of my Victorian house), looking in each drawer at things that are gone, remembering even what the drawer pulls felt like, torturing myself with my incredibly clear visual memory and discovering new things that I haven’t had a chance to feel sad about yet.
April 19, 2012