Jul 6, 2006

Alchemy

The question, only, was this: how many would I light, how much paper would take fire, how much smoke would stink the air, before the nature of it all would change.

I thought maybe the change would be a shroud, an artificial night of pink fog blotting the world from me and me from the world and there I would be, just a strangely dancing shape that was totally alone.

Or I thought maybe the change would be a new air, this one denser and greener, and that when I breathed it in and out something would seep away from me and into the all around and the outside would come inside and the inside outside and the loneliness would go away.

The question, though, was not what sort of change, but just how long it would take, how much fire it would need. I believed in fire. I believed in smoke. I believed in change and I didn't care where. Change was for change and an order to fill. All I wanted know was the number needed. I was just the clerk serving change and I said, how many will you need?

I took a box and tore away the laminated cardboard tab closing off the end. I emptied them out into my hand, into a fist. I took the party-colored paper ends and I twisted. I twisted them tight into a pig tail of purple and red and green spiraling into each other.

I took a second box, and added them to the first, a third to the second, and fourth to the third. I held them, two in each hand, fist fulls, torch fulls, hope fulls. I took them and lit them, pushing the streamers into the short light of the candle, left then right, and then I raised the fire.

I waved directions to an imaginary airplane. I drew a disappearing map through a circle to a straight line. The sparklers sparked until they were nothing but colored fire, heat on my face and flying by bits to catch the hair on my wrists. The fire went up in the smelly smoke of disappearing paper making shapes of men look like trees and trees like nets.

How many, I thought, would it take to change.