The summer of 2013 there was a fire so close to the town where I lived that on more than one occasion it literally was raining ash. I went outside for less than a minute to water the plants I was desperately trying to keep alive, and came back in with white speckles dusted all over my shoulders. Every news broadcast was screaming to stay inside, to be careful about the air. I walked to work every morning and every night, breathing in the smoke and writing metaphors about how it made me feel more alive.
I heard someone say today that the air quality in Seattle right now is the same as Hong Kong or Beijing. Some fire in British Columbia can’t be contained and the smoke has wandered its way down and gotten stuck over the Sound. Everything is hazy; the air feels thick and tight. But even now, some years and so many fires and warnings later, I still sleep with the windows open.
It reminds me of the summer where my freckles were accompanied by specks of ash, and everything felt like a risk.
Something about this time of the summer—August, the end, the hottest part, fire season—always makes me question every decision I’ve ever made. Maybe it’s because since graduating way too many years ago there’s nothing structurally waiting for me on the other side of summer. Maybe it’s because I should’ve listened to the radio back in 2013 and I’ve inhaled too much smoke for my own good.
Or maybe it’s because something about endings has always made me slightly morbid, because I wonder what my own will be like.
I’m always worried that, “This is it.” I’ve always been the person who has trouble with goals and milestones because there is rarely that true exhilaration of like, “Wow I actually did it.” More often it’s followed quickly by a panic, of, “So what’s next?”
I’m always worried about “this is the end” or, “this is the peak” when it comes to life and things that meander in between. That there isn’t proverbial “This is when you’ll feel complete” and I’ll always have to settle for something close to it. And the scariest thing about never feeling like you’re enough, is the prospect of having to settle for that less than amount.
This summer has started to feel like that one in 2013. Where I passed out most nights on my couch and woke up with my bangs sticking to my temples. There’s a haze that’s lingering over the city and everyone has this air about them that feels like they’re waiting for some sort of ending.
I’ve always hated endings. I’ve always been afraid of them and what happens next.
Maybe because I’m used to fire seasons. And know all too well how everything can just disappear when smoke finally fades.