Had I known there would be arguing, I would have stayed indoors. To be fair, it hadn’t quite been sanctioned by the governor for us to be out at all. At least not in our state. All uncovered and in close quarterers, seeking answers.
Arizona was still practicing a far from heroic form of social distancing.
But there was something I needed to smell. Before men arrived in bright colors to extinguish those same, bright hues. I needed to smell the almost cologne of tree leaves after all of the water has steamed away. I thought of bracing myself against the blaring sirens to come. It instilling in us a sense terror to follow terror. For a construction site had just burned down less than ten days prior, ten square blocks away.
What was left of the clear air, I felt guilty soaking up for myself. Somewhere, a parent who never wanted to be one, takes gleeful relief in the recommendation to save oneself before the children. And a young boy unwanted by his parents isn’t old enough to be grateful he can finally die today. I nearly let my worry of the world consume me. That was until my eyelids struggled to push back a film penetrating the oil and water of my corneas.
The battle for noise and confusion was being won by nature, but man was not far behind. The noxious air gave way to shouted questions, directed at no one in particular. Here was now a reason to be heard by the selfsame neighbors we’d each avoided since moving in.
I stood outside watching… becoming transfixed thinking of a medical clinic I passed five days earlier. The signage stood out—its contrasting colors calling my immediate attention. Burnt orange and violet combined for such displeasing imagery; there was no choice but to let it burn into my memory. They called it Fast Med, but it looks like the sort of place where you spend hours just waiting to be seen.
An older, grandpa-type brought a bluish tarp to the front. Ambling himself into the cut-out of a porch his wife spent a winter morning turning into a garden. “They’ll need to get used to it eventually,” I immediately thought the better of suggesting. He stared at me for a little while anyway, turning back to his garden and spreading the crinkles out before draping it over the gathering of Chicago Peace and Mister Lincoln roses.
My belly laughed a bit, the chuckle dying out in my throat. Him hearing me in English and recalling it in Spanish, I realized he probably would be struck by few extra layers of hilarity and grimness. Save Mr. Lincoln. Save the peace in Chicago. Yeah, he could go ahead and throw that tarp away. Or leave it covering those roses like corpses until the next fire a week from now.
So I stood still, my right hand on the cool, uneven trunk of a tree in the park some meters from my front door. Closing my eyes to the greyish air, I focused on remembering each fire I’d witnessed, lest they be forgotten altogether. I soaked in the noise like rancid CO₂. Doing my best to translate it. Modeling myself after the unaffected trees surrounding the bushfires twenty-two miles northeast of Mesa, Arizona.
On the morning of June 21st, Alan Sinclair reported, “The incident management team has assumed command of the Central Fire.”
Noting, “Cause: Human-caused” and nothing furthermore than that clipped mention of man’s influence.