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It was never the same. After that great fire took away our home, our precious photographs, our valued things we carried through our life, things were never the same again.

But how are we to stop things like that from happening? How are we to stop the rain from falling? Of course we don’t stop such things, we let them flow like a river going to the ocean. We let them move towards their destination. Like death taking away life.

But rain did not fall then, and death did not come. Life did follow the flow it’s supposed to make, but I know for sure that I was suppose to die then. The question though was how was I to know that it was my time, can I blame death for not taking me away. Can I know more than death himself?

The rain did not fall. It was a perfect time to laugh, to drink, to dance under the moonless starry sky. It was my 16th birthday. And later on I realized that it was also a perfect time to die. My relatives are having the time of their lives.

After 16 years of not seeing each other, finally the fire died. It was just a matter of misconception of who’s really fault was it. My aunt died exactly 16 years ago. Aunt Grace, the eldest of the siblings, the kindest, the pillar of the family died of an accident caused by who-knows-who. My grandparents left my father and his elder siblings alone before they even understood what really happened to them. Aunt Grace was 13 then, my father the youngest of the six, was about to turn five in a month. So they live under their Aunt Martha’s care, who was unfortunately for them the meanest they could have met. Aunt Martha as they say was always yelling at them telling them what work needs to be done. Sometimes they were spanked with a broom stick before they even know what needs to be done. So they learned to cooperate with one another. Aunt Grace tried to take all the jobs she could and then letting her little brothers and sisters continued going to school. It was tough doing things on her own, but as the eldest she felt like it was her job to take care of everything left behind by their parents. Once in a while she cries, but not too much, and whenever she does so, she tries to hide it from anybody. Not that she’s afraid that she would be teased, but that she wants her brothers and sisters to know that they could lean on her because she’s strong. But then of course my father could see her sometimes, and my father knows that his other siblings does too, but they set an unspoken rule that nobody would talk about it to anyone, not especially in front of aunt Grace. So they work hard, and when the time came for them to leave, they helped aunt Grace until that evening came.

It was a usual night for everyone. Uncle Bill, the second eldest, came home from work by 7 pm. Aunt Grace was cooking for dinner. Then Aunt Gemma, with aunt Lucy, and aunt Imelda, came home soon after uncle Bill. Everyone seems not to think of making it on their own yet. It was the food. Or it was Uncle Bill who’s tired. Or Maybe Aunt Grace was tired. Or it could have been my father who’s tired. But the fire lit up anyway. Everyone turned their back on Uncle BIll, knowing that it was useless arguing with him, everyone except my father, who sees it not fair acting like that on aunt Grace after all those years of her taking care of them. And so uncle Bill left, it was just for a walk I suppose, but then he never came back. My father was tense then knowing that I was being born that night also, and that he never told anyone just yet, not until the funeral of aunt Grace. For poor aunt Grace died the night the fire lit up. She had a heart attack, her body gave in after years of working for her beloved brothers and sisters. And on how uncle Bill knew how aunt Grace died, nobody knows but him. And after the funeral, they had the talk they all wanted to since they left aunt Martha’s house. Their darkest nightmare of the world, their ideals about living together. Their secrets since then. Their feelings of regret after all that happened to them but also their gratefulness to one another especially to aunt Grace, whom of all they were never able to say thank you. They learned their mistake but they never let the fire die. Uncle Bill was never heard since then.

And years came by and fast, things never changed for them. They planned this night, the reunion, the night they were suppose to officially kill the fire. When all that happened was beyond their expectations. When the alcohol set in, when they thought that time was already enough for them to let the past go, but they were wrong. Aunt Gemma finally found somebody and she’s now two months pregnant. Aunt Lucy and aunt Imelda has their company growing ever since, although aunt Lucy never remarried after her husband died of an accident. Aunt Imelda is living her life as a single, traveling with her best friend around the world.  It was uncle Bill who came in to surprise everyone.  He was never invited, he was no where to be found. But his story shocked everyone. He was in an accident the night he left, he tried to call home but nobody answered.  Of course, because everyone was in the hospital then and after the funeral, they abandoned the house. They left without any plans. Aunt Gemma lived with her boyfriend, which unfortunately didn’t last long after they started living together, they broke up. The other ladies went to live in an apartment near their work, with aunt Gemma living with them two months after. My father finally started living with my mother then, and lucky for them, things worked out just the way they expected it, until the night of my 16th birthday of course.

Because uncle Bill recalled how he felt abandoned.  And how he never felt his hard work being recognized. How he felt betrayed and left hanging with nowhere to go to after he woke up. Basically he slept for years, and woke up with nothing to hold onto. So he never killed the fire, not even when he slept. And he brought it out here, and he let it burn everything.

My father tried to argue with him, tried to outwit him but there was no pinhole to escape to. It was well planned, it was the perfect time for uncle Bill. Apparently he watched us from far away ever since he woke up. He searched for us, and one by one he found us living our lives. He was the man who hides behind other man. And when he heard about the reunion and after he never got invited, he started out his plan. He was the one who entered our house a month ago, nothing got lost anyway so my father thinks its just somebody else who mistaken our house leaving the front door open. But now that he’s telling everyone about this, which I barely hear because my mother told me to go upstairs with my cousins, I know everyone fears what he would do next after this night, or even the next minute.

Death did not come as I hoped it to, at least not for me. Because everyone died. Even uncle Bill  himself. Of how he survived the accident which looks to be pretty bad, I never got to asked. Nor why he didn’t take me with him, with my parents. He called me, with a gun on his hand. My parents were yelling at me not to go, it was I who insisted. He opened the front door where he came, everyone was in the living room then, standing. He never said anything He just asked me my name, then said thank you very much sister. And he told me to run far beyond the farm. I did as I was told. I was anxious at first but my parents told me to do it. I even thought I heard my mother said to call for help. I was running fast when I realize something bad is about to happen, so I started running back. The next thing I remember is that I was lying on the ground, hearing the wailing sounds around me. I tried to move but I can’t. I even tried to shout, but I can only make small sounds from my mouth. Somebody came over me.

Every time I look back to that time, all I remember is how the fire ate everything that night. Of how I lost my precious items in the fire that burned for decades. Of how I tried to kill the fire myself but eventually I realized that its more than just a fire. The rain I expected did not fall then, not even a fall. But a promise was born, that I would never carry such fire within me.

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