Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Fire Within Us

The family is gathered around the campfire. The stars are twinkling high above the trees and the moon has a faint yellow shadow surrounding it. The desert evening air is crisp, enough so that she keeps scooting her folding chair closer to the campfire. The night is silent except the sound of crackling flames. Miriam stares into the roaring fire. Ryan sure knows how to build a fire. He’s the perpetual Boy Scout; prepared, honest, and loyal. Jennifer and Janie are poking sticks into the flames, and pulling them out as soon as they catch on fire. Then they rub the end into the dirt to put the fire out.

“Get back, you’re going to fall into the campfire.”

Ryan stacks more logs onto the fire and the flames roar to life again, shooting yellow and gold spires into the air. Sparks fly as the breeze created by the flames twirls them around the fire.

Miriam is mesmerized by the flashing light of the flames. She remembers when Ryan and she first met in college. Their life together was like the blinking fire, hot and passionate. As they made love, they created more sparks that stirred their inner being with a desire for more, and the never-ending sparks kept the fire burning. They believed there was no limit to their forging love. Their plans for the future reached the stars, just like tonight’s fire.

The flames subside to a steady glow. Miriam once again thinks about when Jennifer and Janie were born. It was an exciting time to think that their fire of love created such beautiful twins. But Miriam was tired most of the time, and Ryan worked two jobs to support the family. Their lovemaking was steady, but it didn’t have the spark, the glow, the heat it once did. Pretty soon it became more infrequent as the girls started their activities of dance, soccer, softball, sleepovers, Halloween - there was always something going on.

“Can we make ‘smores?”

“Of course, the fire is down enough for some nice, hot coals. Go get the graham crackers and marshmallows.”

“I want chocolate too.”

“Okay, there’s a Hershey’s bar in the cooler.”

By the time the girls come back with their cooking supplies, the hot coals have taken on a different life. The embers glow, first red, then orange, then yellow. Always moving, but they don’t have enough intensity to burst into flames again. The fire is just a memory. Jennifer and Janie run the wire through the marshmallow and hold it close to the reddest part between the embers. The white fluff smokes, then the girls turn their wires so the entire orb is a toasty brown.

Miriam once again is staring at the dying fire. “What has happened to our marriage?” she ponders. Their fire has been extinguished and there is nothing left but a memory of hot cinders. Pretty soon there will be just ashes.

Her premonition comes true. The girls have eaten their ‘smores, the fire has stopped glowing, and Ryan dumps a bucket of water in the fire pit to completely extinguish the heat. Miriam shuffles off to her tent and sleeps alone.

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