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Moth in the Fire

A fire distant and bright illuminates the desert. The hardened desert dirt gradually changes from black to blue to red to orange as I get closer to the blaze. Cacti reflect shadows much bigger than themselves and the wind blows harshly sending tumble weeds rolling in grotesque dance. As I approach a sweet bitter acidic smell hits my nostrils. All at once it's familiar and alien, I can't wait for it to end and I never want it to end. The smell of something from the past that you can't properly place.

An old man in a over sized ragged worn Chargers hoodie that reaches to his knees is attempting to tame or incite the flame with a long wooden stick, the kind attached to shovels or hoes. The stick is sharpened from the constant poking at the fire and constantly sends embers flying towards the old mans bare leather like feet. Every time it does he jumps back and lets out an old gurgly yelp. At the fires edges moths hovered around, one by one they were entering the flame evaporating into nothing. I try to see whats burning but it's too bright, but let me assure you something is burning in the center of this fire, something big. 

I try to approach the old man, to see his face but his hoodie is covering his head and shadows his face. All I can see is of the old man's face starts at his long bulbous nose continues to his worn chapped lips and ends near the bottom of wrinkled chin which is covered in white stubble. He may be tan or pale it's hard to tell next to the fire, everything seems to take a shade of orange here.

"What are you cooking old man"I ask

"What does it look like...Young man" He replies

"Dunno that's why I asked"

"Hrrmph!"He spits into the fire causing a light sizzle and a small ember to emerge "I'm surprised you don't recognize the fuel"

"It's too bright..."

"No it's not, look again" he picks up a hand full of sand from the ground and tosses it into the fire. Suddenly the fire dies out a little and I'm able to get a closer look.


I can see what the fire was feeding on it was me. Rather not me but what made me up, all my failed dreams and aspirations, all the possible paths I could have taken and didn't. The choices I gave up to peruse others and the ones I didn't even know I had. The challenges I chose to forfeit and their outcome. All the what if's and could have's, all the other me's that could have been. It was at once beautiful, horrible, inspiring, haunting, nostalgic, and saddening. I wanted to cry and laugh and scream but all I could do was stare until the old man put his hand on my shoulder and poked the fire once more. The pyre came alive once more and the brightness overwhelmed me and I shut my eyes. When I opened them again the fire was too bright to look at again.

"What...Was" I slowly stammered

"You know what it was, but that doesn't matter any more does it" he quietly replied

"Can I go back? With this knowledge can I go back and change things. Can I have the life I always wanted! The one I deserve!" I couldn't hold back the tears as I said this.

"Maybe, can't tell you myself but I wouldn't put it out of the realm of possibility. But as far as you-?" his sentence was interrupted by mine

"Why not? I co-" I was in turn interrupted by him

"Why not? That's what this fire's about. It's all trash, even if you could go back why would you? You'd only fuck up in new and inventive ways. This fire, it had to happen you had to burn this shit. You had to clean house, I'm not saying the path your on right now is the best one out there but it's the one your on. As far as you know you can't go back, never will so forget it."

"So what now?" I wiped the tears from my eyes and spit at the fire. The familiar sizzle and embers.

"Just keep going forward, there's no other direction. Keep marching, try not to fuck up, and hope for the best. This fire will always be here, everyday it grows bigger and bigger. Nothing really burns up it just keeps burning. Then well then you die and I'm not in charge of that part. Nope, my job here is to keep his fire burning bright and hot."

"Why? If it's all just trash anyways."

"Why this why that, is that what you do just ask questions all day?"

"Well I..."

He lets out a sigh and continues

"I do it cause it's my job and it needs to be done to remind you of the path not taken. So that you have a subconscious realization that if you had done things a little differently back then things would be very different right now. So that the next time you make a choice you hopefully make a better one. So that your life isn't a total fuck up. The problem is sometimes if your not careful you'll spend too much time thinking about what you didn't do and not see situation at hand. Then well then it's too late."

"What should I do?"

"Far be it from me to tell you what to do. You want my advice though, try not to look at the fire that much. Like I said it's all garbage, just keep walking forward and when you step in shit just wipe it off and keep walking. Truth be told I think they should get rid of this place. Just don't tell my boss that"

"I won't"

"Well I'd love to talk to you all day kid but I got work to do. Maybe you'll stop by some other time"

"Don't count on it"

Copyright © 2009 by Carlos Ruiz. All Rights Reserved.




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