A roaring blaze does cast a beautiful light


by Susanna Crossman

In the kitchen, this morning, I argued with C over whether we should go to the dump on Saturday. The garage is full of empty cardboard boxes, I said. It smells of damp and everything is slowly going moldy. We must go to the dump! C replied that he didn’t want to plan what he would be doing on Saturday because it was only Tuesday morning, and Saturday was too far away.

We had a ridiculous discussion about empty cardboard boxes, damp and future time, and who threw things into which places. In the kitchen, we both made gestures with our arms. I made the shapes of the hands turning on a clock face in reference to what I saw as C’s fear about time. C swayed his arms, from side to side, showing how boxes are thrown, how I throw boxes, willy-nilly, through the garage door.

By the time he left for work, we were both over-heated.

In the kitchen, I started thinking, what do I make of this? My instinct was to build a war, to connect C’s refusal to plan a dump trip to all the other moments when he’d argued against planning the future, near or far. After twenty-five years of living together there were many, many moments to recall: ordinary and exceptional moments, moments on holidays, birthdays, Christmas and sick days. There were spring, summer, autumn and winter instances when he had a refused to talk about or plan things, because the time was not right.  In the kitchen, my jaw tight, shoulders raised, I thought that if I piled all those moments together in a heap and struck a match, I could get furious and light a fire. I could burn our house down, burn our garage down and all the empty cardboard boxes.  Then, there would be no damp and no plans to make about anything at all.

While I was dreaming of flames, I was drinking coffee. C had gone. In the kitchen, I began wondering about why I had to build something so big from a bicker, attach it to values and meanings and other past events. That morning, why was I linking the damp, empty cardboard boxes from online orders, mainly mine, to C’s dislike of planning and strategy? Why was I turning a quibble into a war, a slight into a skirmish? An irritation was becoming a cause for total annihilation, the burning down of our house.

I sipped my coffee. It was hot and strong with a splash of milk, just as I like it. I thought of texting, or ringing C because immediate friendly contact after a fight is what we do. It allows irritations to remain irritations.

I thought of listing our arguments, fights, disputes, differences, our contradictions and desires. The paradoxes between us could be put one on top of each other and this stack would reach the moon.

Then, I looked out of the kitchen window and saw the June light, and the roses growing in our garden. I imagined building nothing from our disagreement about the dump, the damp cardboard boxes, the garage and future time. What would it be like, I thought, if this irrelevance remained small and insignificant, if I didn’t build on it but chose to let it go? What would my day look like if I wasn’t constructing piles made from past moments, making connections, striking matches and burning houses down?

It was a difficult debate, for the heat from a roaring blaze does cast a beautiful light, and destruction leaves a certain taste in my mouth.

In the kitchen, I drank more coffee, brushed a crumb from the table onto the floor. Then I remembered a conversation C and I had had the previous week. We’d been sat in the garden, and he’d said, sighing and smiling at the same time, Love is not all roses, it is also about destruction. We’re all trying to pull each other apart.

I picked up my phone, looked again at the bright June light, contemplated writing a text, Hello C…


About the Author:

Susanna Crossman is an Anglo-French fiction writer and essayist, winner of the 2019 LoveReading Very Short Story Award. She has recent/upcoming work in Neue Rundschau, S. Fischer (translated into German), Repeater Books, The Creative Review, 3:AM Journal, The Lonely Crowd and more. Nominated for Best of The Net (2018) for her non-fiction, her fiction has just been short-listed for the Bristol Prize and Glimmertrain. Co-author of the French roman, L’Hôpital Le Dessous des Cartes (LEH 2015), she regularly collaborates on international hybrid arts projects. Currently, she is showing the multi-lingual prose film, 360° of Morning, with screenings and events across Europe and USA. She lives in France. @crossmansusanna.

Image by Dean Hochman via Flickr (cc).