“Perhaps if you could shed a tear or two,” he says.
I shoot him a sharp look, likely far sharper than I intend, and say: “I am not so good at crying on command”, and go back to gazing across the river towards the blackened and charred trees on the other side.
I have shed a lot of tears over the past year, but faux tears are not one of the things I am willing to produce.
As we approach the one year date since the fire (do we call it an anniversary? I don’t know, I struggle with using that word for it), I am, like I suspect so many are, deeply conflicted.
There is still a desire in me to tell the story, to share my tale, to tell of the challenges and the triumphs, the moments of sorrow and of joy and the length and breadth of the experience and yet…
And yet in some strange sense I struggle to do so, as I no longer know where to begin or how to end it. Everything is a jumble of thoughts, words and emotions, and as May 3rd draws closer, the jumble tightens and intensifies.
“What will you do on May 3rd?” the interviewer asks.
“Hopefully not spend it driving nine hours down highway 63,” I respond with a small laugh. As I look around at the camera crew, I realize I am the only one who finds any humour in this.
Too soon for them, I guess.
And they weren’t even here for May 3, 2016.
The tears don’t come on command, I now know that. They come at the most unexpected times, like the moment when I am thanking someone for an act of kindness and am swept back in time to the person who tossed a bottle of water into my car while they were fleeing to safety just as I was. They come at times when I least want them, sneaking up on me at the end of movies about tales of human courage and resiliency, humbling me into silence.
And it seems I no longer have the interest or appetite I once had for natural disaster movies. Tsunamis, tornadoes, earthquakes; I lived through a natural disaster made not of roaring water and cracking earth but roaring flames and crackling trees. Once you have experienced one, the movie set pales in comparison.
I have a lot of words bottled up inside. I wrestle with them daily, some of them struggling to be freed while others elude me with the kind of trickery one expects from things that only want to be glimpsed but not fully seen.
What will I do on May 3rd?
I will get up and fill the dog’s water bowl.
I will pet all the cats in turn, the ones who deign to get up to meet me in the morning and the ones who decline to leave their soft warm beds.
I will drive to work.
I will glance out my window throughout the day, seeing the skyline I have come to love, not filled with skyscrapers and towering offices but with the places that have come to reside in my heart over the past sixteen years.
I will drink my coffee.
I will do my job.
At the end of the day, I will go home and cuddle those cats and that dog.
And I will go to sleep in my own bed, feeling nothing but gratitude for all I have learned and gained and lost and found in the past year.
I will allow myself to feel whatever I feel on that date, but at the end of it all I know I will simply feel happy to be here.
And oh yeah.
On May 3rd, 2017, I hope it rains.
That way when I stand outside and look at the blackened trees, nobody will see the tears.