The family gathered at the funeral home; she was pretty, peaceful, relieved. We went for Mexican food and then home to bed.
It was 2 a.m. I remember this plainly. The room was warm, too warm. I was so tired and tried to ignore the heat, but finally I roused and the house was full of smoke; it hung in russet layers like the grand canyon. We were not running the furnace, but using a space heater, so the layers of smoke were distinct, still. I woke my soon-to-be-husband and we walked through the house, searching for the fire, but no fire was found. We came back to our bedroom and turned on the light. The outside wall nearest my side of the bed was rolling and heaving as if liquid, or as if it were suddenly alive.
Isn't it funny how fire is alive?
He went outside and the flames were shooting up the wall, lapping at the ceiling above us. In mere moments, we would have been asleep forever.
Fire changes things.
The fireman's ax broke through the bedroom wall and January pulled the warmth away. Suddenly, our bedroom was laid bare to the world, and all that was precious seeped out onto the frozen ground. The bed was ruined. It was full of ash and cinders and plaster and had to be thrown away. The pretty bedspread, the pillows, the blankets all smelled of smoke. This was the bed where we had found each other, saved each other, and it was singed and dirty.
His mother saved us. Everyone said so. She had dwelt among the angels only hours when she had to awaken us. Our smoke alarms did not sound. No, no one sounded an alarm while our bedroom was ablaze. It was her insistent spirit, wake up, wake up.
It was a sign, everyone said so, that she had awakened us as we were starting a new life. A new life. Like, another life. Like, we had been . . . not actually dead, but dead-like. I had been lonely, oh my God, how lonely I had been married before. The loneliness stretched so far inside of me it was as if a dark cloth was draped over my heart, like the blood could not flow there. And in this bed, all that changed, and my heart glowed, as if on fire; and my soul, glowed, as if on fire. It was as if I had been resuscitated, yes, given a new life.
I had been given a new life.
I had awakened into fire.