I left shortly after I put my clothes back on. I was ready for bed. I thought I would check Facebook one last time as I waited for Paul to come back home. Facebook, that is where I learned that our previous family business was on fire. Paul arrived home after 10 PM tired without even eating yet. I left without him in great urgency as if my presence would stop the raging fire from burning.
Inside that building is where my family members lived on in my memory. My great-grandparents built the business 100 years before. Like a family farm, all of the family members lived next door or down the road. In my mind they worked together in a steady hum like a colony of bees. I don’t remember any conflict just hard work.
My grandpa and uncle Harold fixed cars. There were several other mechanics too that they treated like family. I remember Harold laughing and sharing stories with customers in his quiet way. My brothers and I were always running through the garage as kids only stopping to buy a bottle of soda from the machine for 25 cents. It was a magical place, a place where broken things got fixed. I loved the smell of tires and even the scent of gasoline because it only brings back good memories.
My aunt Grace did the bookkeeping with the help of my grandma. I can still see them pouring over the paper files and counting money in the antique cash register. It’s the one place I remember them all being together busy and productive.
I was pouring over these thoughts as I got closer to the scene. Roads were blocked, sirens blared and I was the only one from my family that was there. My parents were up north opening the cabin for the season. My brothers and I should’ve been there but even that is changing because of the conflict with my dad. The times at the cabin together as a family might have come to an end too. After not speaking to my dad for 5 months, I called him late that night to tell him the old family business was on fire.
I stood on the side street for over an hour and a half watching the orange glow as fire trucks steadily poured in and out. I talked to the only person watching with me, a stranger. At 1 AM, I told the stranger I was going home which wasn’t exactly true unless you consider home my parents house. I had to go to the bathroom really bad by this point.
My parents locked their house before leaving but they always have a spare key in the closet if you can find it. My parents could be considered hoarders. Their closet had 4 levels of tightly packed shelves of odds and ends. I found two keys, but they didn’t fit. I searched my purse hoping that I still had a spare but the keys I had didn’t fit so I left them. Finally I found the right key in the closest and let myself in.
I wasn’t ready to leave yet. I had to get closer to the flames. It was drawing me in like a June bug. I left my car in my parents driveway and decided to take the trail into town the back way. It was very dark and I felt anxious running down the road and trail by myself in the middle of the night. But I shown no light since I didn’t want to be seen. I was a little afraid of bypassing the police cars and sneaking in the back way. I was afraid of night animals but I figured the fire probably already scared them away. I ran without seeing what was ahead of me fighting my fear.
I couldn’t see the fire any better than before. There were trees in the way. I didn’t want to get any closer because there were many people there fighting the fire. There was another man leaving the area from the back way. I was afraid because I was alone and vulnerable, but the man meant me no harm.
I got home late that night. After a couple hours of sleep I awoke and went back for more. My parents came home early the following morning and found themselves locked out of the house. In my panic, I left the house keys in the bathroom and my own set outside the door. When I’m really stressed my mind stops processing the details which I so obsess over in normal times. I find it bizarre that the strongest part of my brain just quits working.
The building may have burned to the ground, but the memories of my family working together will always live on in my mind.