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A Fire Burning

By @Raemags16

The Nightmare Begins

It is sometimes said that character can only be developed in a situation that requires it. Personally, I know this is true. I have had to learn to see past my eyes and into my heart. Regretfully, I must admit I used to be a selfish being, content with my simple existence where surety came easy and my needs were always fulfilled and took everything in my life for granted. One of the hardest trials I have ever gone through began not long after midnight on September 24, 2011, a day that changed my life, my outlook, and my attitude toward life forever.

I walk into the school, already knowing somehow that I no longer belong here. The sights and smells that I have known so well now seem completely foreign to me. My mind is fizzing with thoughts that have no answers. I feel self-conscious and overly conspicuous in my “new” thrift store clothing and donated shoes. People I had previously called friends now make certain to not be seen as I pass by. Already I can hear the busy buzzing of the gossip mill as people spread what news they have heard through an endless game of telephone the story changing each time it is told. I wait for the quiet whispers and endless repetitive speeches of consolation from those who only pretend to understand. How can they? They do not know what it is like to have their pasts erased, for every childhood picture and documented milestone vanish from the earth as though they had never existed, to lose all that they love, to be thrust into another world only to completely lose themselves. Even friends hold no relief for me. I am in my own world, my own living nightmare. Just thinking about all that has happened in the last 24 hours makes me dizzy with sadness and I want to start crying all over again.

Walking through the well-known hallways of identical classroom doors and navy blue lockers, I see the people that I would normally talk to every day, now scurrying out of my way to form circles of connivance, murmuring behind their hands, stealing glances over at me as their mouths spin webs of unknown tales. In that moment I realize that I am no longer “normal”; I am now a victim of fate and circumstance, my entire life now irrevocably changed. I already know what needs to happen; I now have to leave my small, quiet, and peaceful town for some other unknown area and I am being given no chance to say goodbye to my cherished place of refuge deep inside the woods by what used to be our house where I could go to whenever I wanted.

Even now, on a lone stump in a clearing, lays a small stuffed Minnie Mouse, that had sat forgotten for a day and was left to watch the flames that had consumed the house slowly die. By now, over two years later, her dress and bow is no longer a violent cherry red, her heeled shoes no longer sunshine yellow, but brown and molded by the harsh elements as bits and pieces of sodden stuffing are strewn about, having been torn apart by wild animals. This is exactly how I had felt that day on September 24, 2011; my fragile body being ravaged by the wild beasts of circumstance, tossed by the merciless bitter winds of change, and left to wither and watch, unable to stop the fire from destroying my home and wake up from the nightmare that had become my life.

It is during those quiet moments between wake and sleep that these memories are most clear. I can still feel the sticky, golden brown shag carpeting and the cold wood paneling that covered the walls in the hotel that became our temporary home under my fingertips at times, still hear the wailing cries of my younger sibling and the mournful howling of my dogs as they pine for the house they once knew, and can still see my grandmother grow older right before my eyes after she reached for the telephone and heard the life-altering news on the other end. 

During this time I was forced to learn what truly mattered to me; my family and my true friends. Material possessions can hold many memories, but the people that the memories contain have proved to be so much more important to me and have helped me to deal with the heartbreak and loss that gripped my entire being those first few months. I have learned that I cannot control my fate or the course my life is going to take. The tighter I cling to control, the more I realize that I am only a passenger in the car on the long journey of life. Even though I would rather that my house had not burned down I cannot deny the strength and resiliency that I have gained through this experience. I believe that had I not been forced to learn this lesson, I would never have fully comprehended the blessings it provides. After two years, I still don’t know how I lost everything I perceived important in my life and my beloved home, but time has taught me that the how doesn’t always matter, that the why is sometimes more important. Perhaps it was an act of God, meant to place me back on the proper path, a blessing to instill in me humility, patience, and understanding.

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