air & fire

I’m standing halfway down a crowded staircase while the people around me, above and below, are arguing a point– and finally, when one of the women’s comments begin to get painfully far-fetched– we’re all just standing there watching her self-immolate rhetorically– until I can no longer stand it and speak up– my voice is clear and strong, and I surprise myself with how intelligent I sound– but in another moment I feel I’ve said too much, gotten carried away in the spotlight and have to cut myself off and duck out of the building altogether– at once proud of myself and unbearably embarassed. I walk out and head for the diag (I’m in ann arbor) for some space and clarity. I’m crossing the white marble piers at the base of the main library steps, and everything is sun-washed even though it’s wintertime, and I’m grateful for the wide-open space I’m approaching– I’m walking along one of the concrete paths when I feel someone reaching into my purse, and I grab at it with my hands and then bite the air beside me and clamp down on a folded clump of bills– then I see who’s holding it, a friend, and realize she was only borrowing and am embarassed by my savage action– and let go and say, no, no, of course you take it.

I’m in a dingey downtown ann arbor bar chatting with people and being flirtatious and blithe when I drop a stray ember and something catches, the edge of my shoes and a bit of the bar carpet– and it spreads, jumps into an evergreen bush that’s growing there that has some tinder-dry undergrowth– and I scream, fire! fire! but no one’s really doing anything to help– I’m trying to put it out with my hands, but it keeps disappearing in one place and reappearing in another– like phantom flame, hiding from us each time we try to put it out– and I know the only answer would be drenching the whole thing, but there’s no water anywhere, and I feel responsible and guilty and keep patting at it with my hands until the tip of my leather glove catches.

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