Thursday, December 12, 2013
A Conflagration Of Props
Fire and Ice
Many have said that with the passage of time memories become the tracings of a dream in that the mirror is suffused with clouds, impressionistic renderings and the scattered images in the household of the mind, that become as furniture as an adjunct to a dwelling. I was consuming mile after mile underneath my frozen feet across the icy pavement on my way home from Montana. The old van began to swerve, and then began to spin, tumbling down a steep embankment, end over end until it rested on the driver's side. The engine compartment had caught fire and the flames rose close enough to my clothing that I had to pull my way out of the passenger side which now faced skyward. The deep snow drifts swallowed my legs up to my knees and running while being held in place by the thick packed snow, I looked back to see the van engulfed in flames. As I reached the edge of the highway, the van exploded in a blueish-orange fire ball.
All of this had taken place in what seemed to be a matter of moments. I stood in the wind alongside of that long forgotten highway and the silence, the isolation of that pin point on a map underlined as it had many times in the past, I was utterly on my own. A wave of panic flushed through me as I reached into my coat pocket for my wallet, only to recall I had left it propped on the dash by the windshield. Now it was dust.
I stood there for several minutes watching the flames, the soot and the wreckage against the white snow. I had no choice, the roads were empty, not a single car had passed..I had to begin walking, to what or where I had no idea.
As I trudged along the icy shoulder trying not to fall, I thought about what happened in terms of this sudden and severe twist of fate and it boiled down to that in less than a moment, all the props of civilization had been violently erased and this having landed on me miles from nowhere.
Against the glare of the snow and the mist being driven across the road, I thought I saw some sort of building that was nearly buried in the landscape. As I slowly made my way in that direction, I could see that this drift was actually a roadside cafe. Opening the door, the same silence greeted me. Not a soul was in sight although all the empty tables, the stools the counter were arranged for the arrival of guests. A fellow came out of the kitchen and I explained my situation. Oddly he seemed very matter of fact as if this sort of thing was a common occurrence and he called a tow truck to gather the smoking ruins of my van, explaining that leaving it there would result in a very expensive fine which seemed more than a little abstract at the time.
The driver of the tow truck arrived and we returned to van that had seemingly melted back upon itself. My identification and wallet had returned to dust. In explaining this to the tow truck driver, I could see he was shrugging off the fact that he would not be paid. When we returned to town, his family awaited him in a restaurant as I tagged along fairly sheepishly, and he paid for my meal, and also advised me that I could pay him back when and if I ever returned home. He reached into his wallet and handed me some cash as we parted company and dropped me off at the bus station in the middle of this small town. Human kindness, empathy and how it was dealt with such a matter of fact way filled my thoughts as I looked out the window of the warm bus and passed the scene of my refugee status, the stain of the fire remained painted on the ice crystals on the drifts. Soon it would be Christmas, soon I would be surrounded by friends and family. Perhaps it was a lesson to be learned, perhaps it was an accident, perhaps that tow truck driver had faced a similar and abrupt twist on his own highway. I have forgotten his name, the name of the town, the faces, the details but an impression remains, as if a collage had been set into motion that had arranged itself to once again place me a ledge, to look past details, nagging minutia to experience a meal that had sustained me while I was dropped into a state of suspension with a paltry few seconds.
A dream of arrangements, and yet that day was a marker set on a conflagration..and has informed this transit of contingencies since and as I age, some events appear to me as if heaven sent as if misfortune was applied to indicate I was being paid attention to. Was I ? The fact that this kindness of a stranger stands on its own two feet without any baggage makes it a demarcation within a vivid dream, a memory....
A lesson in humility