I’d just cashed my paycheck and the only money I had, $300 cash, was sitting in my purse on the kitchen counter. New furniture had been stacked in corners and all around the living room. My boyfriend and I had been together several years and were taking what seemed the next logical step in our relationship to get a place together. We’d put down a deposit for a larger apartment in the same building and our move in date was the following week.
Barefoot, wearing a t-shirt and shorts but no bra or underwear was how I rolled that evening. You couldn’t tell my skin color from the soot and my boyfriend was already on the way to the hospital in another ambulance surely unable to speak. Refusing to lay down in the gurney I was sitting up yet felt my spine had been replaced with a stack of moving pebbles. I only took notice because it didn’t hurt. Not then.
Officer Vasquez was his name. I remember looking at his badge and taking a mental snapshot. He was a police officer and we’d just been rescued from an apartment fire. He sat with me in the back of the ambulance to ask me a series of questions. His head was bandaged because glass introduced itself to his skull but intrusive like because it had fallen from several stories above his head.
It seemed he’d failed to appreciate the elemental freedoms held by fire and needed to pen its cause and effect predilections in the ink of blame because his tone was accusatory and angry. I would wonder later if the breaking glass had shattered some state of illusion that had possibly led him to believe he could live unscathed in his chosen profession.
His questions centered around and never left the subjects of intoxicants and smoking: Was I drinking? Was I doing drugs? Was I smoking? He refused to believe I was sleeping when the fire started and at some point, I refused to answer his questions. Falling silent I stared at him and will never know what look in my eyes caused him to close his little book and big empty mouth.
Though numb, somewhere deep down in a reserved and lucid space I was planning to conjure anger to complain to his superiors about his immaturity and lack of compassion.
The person that saved my life was injured and I not able to console. I’d just lost my home and everything owned so my body, heart and mind placed me in a lovely state of shock, a place not quite anywhere yet everywhere all at once, a place that neither hurt nor felt good, a trauma induced zen if you will.
The officer was unprepared for the truth that day because his questions held no space for gray answers. I was unprepared to fit into the black and white tools of his trade as our background of red, white and blue was replaced with a green screen of his choosing.
I’d look back later and decide all introductions can lead to truths held in subsequent mysteries to include the forced handshakes of trauma. I’d consider that handshakes were not intended to be memorialized so much as mixed into the white hellos and black goodbyes of experiences.
Living in peaceful presence after numbness and necessary shock requires a paintbrush attitude and architectural eyesight that acknowledges the gray and like Pollack, drops upon the canvas of life the true zen nature of our soul, expressed with movement, dance and song while remaining present with form, sound and color.
Under the influence of our spirits and outside the borders of critics and naysayers we can build anything, especially when the fire within us is free to burn wild.