Fireproof Box (Nothing Good Gets Away)
One day, it happens. The things you love become the things you lost. Things you will never see again.
It’s two nights before. You rise from your drowsy dream, steady your sea legs, navigate the seas of the unconscious dream world, leer toward the kitchen. The kitchen has answers and light, always light. Your mother left the kitchen light on, so you leave the kitchen light on.
You forgot to fill the water filter again. Flip the top, place it under the faucet, turn the plastic knob and let it fill again.
You lean back against the dishwasher, hips aligning with the countertop’s round edge. Joan of Arc is staring back at you from the opposite wall. Or, perhaps she is looking above you and to the right a little bit, just over your shoulder: the permanent location of God in all depictions; the corner-dwelling yellow sun in a child’s painting of the world. She is an impressionistic misfit from the collection of your grandfather’s creations, and as such you’ve never much cared for her. After staring a while longer, you decide it’s actually the heinous early nineties hunter green mat and marbled plastic frame that you despise, and that Joan herself is exactly as she should be – all fire and passion and will power, rearing back on her blood red horse, her lily white hand thrusting a golden cross before her, confident of victory before the flames.
Flash forward to the evening of the day it happens. Try to recall it, your little kitchen – the vinyl countertop that is never quite clean, the black painted flecks hiding a multitude of crumbs, the labeled wine bottles lining the stovetop, the window ledge, the backsplash. An opaque green bottle with sepia colored portrait of an Australian inmate, a clear green bottle with a running red horse fourteen hands high, a gift from someone you loved, you think. In the cabinet above the ever-present light, your grandmother’s yellow Depression-era glass casserole dishes, brought to life and ended in fire.
And ah, the coffee mugs! Purveyors of solace and warmth, friends that are filled to be emptied once more! How like the Christ metaphor, vessel of sustenance. The black clay cup you found after hours searching through a Cuencano artist’s inventory in a dirt-floored hut in South America that housed five generations and several cats. A set of small ceramic cups used to hand whip cream for strawberries, “the road goes ever on and on” painted in gold script around the lip, one of a few His and Hers sets your hopeful parents gifted to you years ago. A royal blue teacup and saucer from the antique store on the main drag in Plymouth; two more teacups from the same store, all stamped red or green or black on the base, cups you and your friends drank Earl Grey from in college, pinkies up, wearing nothing particular to indicate you were actually the Bennett sisters, awaiting suitors on the second floor of the women’s only dormitory. The porcelain teapot trimmed in metallic gold with hand painted blue roses on its oft-warm belly. A muted blue and green modern tea set from an art gallery high in the mountains of Ecuador.
Gone from the windowsill, the sea glass and sand from your family’s cottage, the one jutting out proudly into the harsh north Atlantic, “Journey’s End”. Gone, the cross-stitch of downtown Lake Bluff, Illinois that your grandmother sewed, the original wood frame still drawing the fabric buildings taut. Gone, the bowls with bible verses crudely etched around the bases; the seashore themed plates with tiny imprints of ceramic turtles scuttling toward the sea, permanently bent on survival.
Gone, the white washed pottery from your home away from home in the Mississippi Delta. Gone, the family cookbook lovingly pieced together for you, containing recipes of all sorts from both sides of your family.
Gone, all the things you’ll never hold or drink from again; they have gone the way of all possessions: broken or melted or molded away. Keep their memory safe within the fireproof box of your mind to drink and sup from in future years. Nothing good gets away.