Tuesday, January 13, 2009
After the fire, only one angel mattered enough that I saved it from destruction and replacement. She is 2 inches tall, draped in a pale green robe, with hand-painted hair and face details that are just barely off, enough that you know she was painted with love by an amateur painter. She belonged to my great-grandmother.
When I explained to the insurance man that I didn't want market value for her so I could get a replacement, I wanted to KEEP the smoke-damaged figure, he tried to clean her in the sink. He dropped her, and she broke. He apologized, but there was so much bustle with men tearing at cabinets and carrying out sofas and watercolors, that his sincerity was tainted with an incredibly long to-do list. So I snatched the pieces from the sink and kept them wrapped in tissue that smelled like smoke.
I carried her with me to our rented house, and there it was calm enough for me to talk to my dad, the master carpenter and fit-it man, about putting her back together. The epoxy set well. I can hardly see the lines.
They aren't any more prominent than the line from the first time she broke - when my grandmother dropped her.
We had a house fire. My room didn't have any damage from fire, only from smoke. The smoke from synthetic carpet, combined with Corian and wood and drywall and plastic suitcases and notebooks of 5th grade poetry assignments, is thick and oily. It never comes out. I still wear the leather jacket I had back then, which was a story and a half below the flames (and smoke, we all know, rises), but the lining is still several shades darker.
The unglazed porcelain didn't have a prayer. The Precious Moments figures were on a shelf high in my room (on the top floor) in the thick of the smoke. The porous material absorbed all the gray carcinogens it could. Insurance men took one look, ordered them scrapped, and gave us money to replace them. They didn't even try to clean or save them. Not cost-effective.
I didn't much care for most of the figurines. The money was designated just as bedroom decoration, so we got the replacement value in cash but didn't need to spend it on Precious Moments stuff. Fine.
But one figure I kept. I think, or at least I remember, hiding it, smuggling it out of the house. Tdoay it seems a bit ridiculous - my parents' house sustained half a million dollars in property damage, and I (a 17-year-old girl) was worried about being put in jail for insurance fraud for keeping a $10 smoke-damaged porcelain figurine destined for the dumpsters.
The figure is on a small shelf in my library, next to a glass of sand I collected from the beach during my honeymoon and a box of soap from the Penninsula Hotel in Hong Kong. It's a boy, with that large Precious Moments head and those teardrop eyes. The eyes are dark brown. The color is mostly gone from the rest of him. There's a hint of green to his coat, and I think his shoes were brown. Dark brown soot still remains in the folds of his pants and under his neck, where I couldn't clean him well.
He's holding a single flower, as if he's giving it to someone.
My brother gave me this when we were kids, I think when we were 8 and 6, or maybe 10 and 8 (I'm the older one). He gave it to me for my birthday.
Today, I think about why. I don't know if my mom bought it for him, or if she took him to a Hallmark and told him to pick out a Precious Moments figure for his sister, or what.
But in my heart it doesn't matter. It's my six-year-old brother saying "I love you" with a flower. Not with words. My brother and I never needed words then.
It doesn't smell like smoke anymore. But I think the smoky soot gray is there to stay. That's okay. The figure isn't broken. I kept it. I deliberately kept it. And it's in my library, on display with other things that are precious to me. But really, what could be more precious that a brother's love?
Loving him back, maybe. And I do. I love you, Dan.
Friday, January 09, 2009
Normally, this would not be remarkable. But I don’t remember the last fiction book I read. And I don’t even remember the last non-fiction book I completed. For some reason, I’ve been alienated from reading. Strange choice of words, I know, but apt. Books have just seemed strange recently. If I can even manage to pick one up (I feel panicked when trying to choose a book from my library, even from those I’ve read and reread. I don’t know if it’s indecision or fear that I won’t get the security / information / entertainment / whatever it is I’m seeking from the book), I can manage a sentence, then I am compelled to put it down and keep wandering the house trying to find something to do that will keep my mind off the query letters I should be researching and writing for my own book. My library is like an alien planet that I’ve crash-landed on. I’ve been there long enough to recognize the terrain – it’s familiar, but it will never be home. I feel like I have no way to leave and no home planet to return to even if I could leave. The walls of colored rectangles, the craters where backpacks or magazines rested, since removed, leaving splotches of carpet surrounded by clutter; the desk and bookshelf and file cabinet that jut into the center of the room, that I tiptoe around to get to my new high-tech looking scanner and printer – it all feels wrong. I want my home back.
Yes, I’m scared to write to agents asking them to represent my book. I don’t know if that’s normal. Probably. But I hate competing against other people, and I hate asking other people to judge me.
Wednesday, January 07, 2009
When he [narrator] moved into the events leading up to and surrounding the firefight in Afghanistan, I was riveted. Mike actually laughed at me because I was sitting in our very cosy, very comfy recliner, literally on the edge of my seat, perched forward and reading as fast as my eyes could go.
Read this book.
Tuesday, January 06, 2009
It's been a successful week, in the sense that I have had trouble making room for the new books, as I store them before mailing. It's also been a successful week in terms of trying out the old CCW license. What, you don't want me to walk into a stranger's home unarmed, do you? I definitely need to practice concealment more, but wearing a heavy coat in the cold winter weather combined with very short stops at people's homes guarantees adequate concealment.
Even still. I wish I were a guy. I look over my wardrobe, think about the functionality of it all, and wish I were a guy.