Monday, May 16, 2005

The Roof, The Roof, The Roof Is On Fire

Fire: the lick of flame can devastate us, entertain us, keep us warm,
or sexually excite us. All it asks in return is that we respect it,
and in its smouldering, ashy aftermath, it's hard not to.

How many lighted candles on a birthday cake does it take to set off a
fire alarm? How many of us are slowly inching closer to the age where
we will have a definitive answer to that question? As my sister-in-law
celebrated her birthday this week, I couldn't help but wonder why it
is that we light sticks of wax on fire, and shove them into a cake to
mark the anniversary of our births. Maybe there's meaning to this, a
symbol (fire is often equated with life-I did watch season 2 of
Survivor), or maybe someone just thought it looked neat. I do think
the candlelight flickers beautifully in the birthday girl's eyes right
before she blows them out. My sister-in-law has added more fire to her
cake - another year older, another year wiser. She turned 13.

During the course of my years I have been burned many times. The whole
palm of my dominant hand was covered in a thick black scab after I
picked up a curling iron by its barrel. I am so often in the kitchen
that I have long since lost count of those burns, although I still
carry the remnants from a bad burn I gave my wrist last year from the
steam of turnip. But the worst burns I have gotten have been from the
sun. I am what my mother generously calls "fair" but others have
cruelly or jokingly called me "translucent" or "albino". Just writing
about the sun makes my skin turn pink. I wear an SPF of 50 all winter
long to shield me, but in the summer I am a hopeless case. But I
refuse to hide from thee sun. I love heat, I love the outdoors, and so
I get burned. Badly. I can assure you that the worst sunburn you have
ever seen has nothing on me. My close friends and family know better
than to touch me during the summer, but a well-intentioned
acquaintance will accost me with something as simple as a hug, and
that can break several of my burn blisters at once. I wish I didn't
know that blisters could fit on the tiny tops of my ears, or that my
scalp could burn so badly that the part in my hair would glow red and
make brushing my hair a near-death experience, but that's life. Well,
that's my life. I arm myself with aloe vera and try to assure myself
that I am not just smearing myself with lime jello.

My biggest pet peeve is when someone says "Hey, looks like you got
some sun!". Oh really? Funny, despite the angry red hue, bubbling
blisters , and the searing agony of every single movement, I hadn't
noticed. Thanks for pointing out my defects, asshole. Only I don't say
any of that. I just smile tersely, and nod. Then I drown my sorrows in

Sunburns so far this month: 3
Assholes who commented on it: 7
Funny sunburn moment: Jason burned his receding hairline! Hehe! Okay,
okay, it's not technically a receding hairline, "he just has a high
forehead". Which is true, it's not receding, it's pretty stationary.
But still funny.

In other fire-related news, my mother's house caught fire. She was out
mowing the lawn, and looked up to see smoke billowing from the house.
She ran back to find that the washer and dryer had caught fire. She
yelled at my sister to call 911, but being my sister, she flatly

Jason drove at break-neck speed to the scene. Every neighbour was out
gawking. The firefighters thought my mother was awfully calm for a
woman watching her home burn down. My grand-mother, forever missing
the point of things, made these insensitive observations:

1. Isn't it embarrassing how all the neighbours are watching?
2. Did they have to send so many trucks? It's making a scene.
3. It's embarrassing how everyone can see the dirty laundry. (the
firefighters were passing out flaming towels and dousing them in the

Had my mother not thought to close the bathroom door, the damage would
have been much worse. The firefighters tried to convince her she's
lucky, but she doesn't see it that way. She had led a hand-to-mouth
existence raising 4 daughters on her own (all but me are still at
home) where her deadbeat ex-husband informed the courts he'd rather go
to jail than pay child support (in the end, he did neither). Finally
after 20 hard years, she had just paid off her mortgage. She'd just
scrimped and saved to replace a leaky roof and the thread-bare
carpets. No, my mother doesn't feel "lucky" at all, but in a way, she

The neighbour to her right rubbed her back while the neighbours to
the left offered coffee or "something stronger", much to our
amazement. Said neighbour is a Jehovah's Witness, so we can only
assume it wasn't alcohol being proffered, but espresso, or Red Bull at
best. At any rate, the small kindnesses did not go unnoticed. And I
thank goodness that it didn't happen at night while they slept. By
all accounts, the smoke was immediately thick, black, and
overwhelming; the "what ifs" are the scariest part of all.

But, everyone is fine. The house will be repaired, though we have
forever lost the mirror where I primped for my first date, the tub
where all 4 of us would take baths together when we were young (one of
my sisters loved to shit in the tub, and to this day if I yell "Mom!
Ones touching me!" my mother will erupt in giggles), we've lost the
counter where I would sit to have gravel removed from my scrapes, and
the toilet where Jess, Sarah and I learned we could all sit and pee at
once, and the dryer where my first tube of lipstick, apple blossom
rose, forgotten in the pocket of my jeans melted all over the clothes
and ruined the whole load (my lifetime ban on lipstick has still not
been lifted).

If I have learned one thing this week, it's that a burned-out charred
dryer on the front lawn is a sight to see, but a melted jacuzzi tub is
even funnier.

And now, as if fires have not traumatized us enough this week, I bring
you the real reason for this post: my computer exploded. That's right,
it finally went kaput, and so I am writing to you from the Public
Library, a beautiful and majestic building I wish you all could see.
We almost had a bona fide fire of our own. Personally, I think the
computer just had a fit of jealousy. Just this weekend we came home
with a new computer, so the old one knew its fate (having seen I,
Robot several times). But the new computer hasn't been hooked up yet
because we're waiting on a part that's coming "soon". So we were still
relying on the old one to do its job, albeit painfully slowly, when we
heard a POP!

"Oh real mature, Jay", Jason said, shooting me a look, then noticing
with some confusion that I wasn't holding the remains of the balloon I'd
just popped.

"Jason, it wasn't me, it came from the computer" And we looked over to
see plumes of smoke coming from it, and seconds later our nostrils
were filled with the acrid scent of, well, burning computer. So Jason
yanked out the wires and got the thing outside. Rest in peace

So, that explains my upcoming absence, but rest assured that I will be
back "soon", and as always, thanks for reading.

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