Ashes Are Burning the Way

CARRIE, April 2000


I go home to our empty condo after the funeral, because I have something to deal with, and it isn’t grief.

Well, not only grief. My heart is a pit, but while we were there in the church an idea struck me: What if I went away? Far, far away …

I would ditch law school, right now – and never go to the summer examinations.

I would go … elsewhere. Mexico or somewhere like that and just walk the roads and see what happened.

For a control freak like me, this idea felt like a snapping alien monster in my mind at first, and I tried to push it away. But it kept coming back all afternoon at the reception after the funeral. I didn’t even notice the last guests I said goodbye to.

I take off my shoes and throw them into a corner in our hallway.

I close the door to our home and lock it.

My mother said she would stay at a hotel, even though I know she can’t afford it.

‘In case I changed my mind.’

And wanted to go home with her – to Cleveland. That’s what she meant.

Well, I won’t and I won’t.

We almost got into a row there, in front of all the other funeral guests.

I shouldn’t have yelled at her. She only wanted to help me. If only she could get it in her head that I am not taking comfort in the fact that Lin will be reincarnated in time.

Possibly. Maybe.

I don’t know what I believe.

I drop the keys in the bowl on the small drawer in the hallway and for a moment I freeze again, seeing my haggard face in the mirror above it.

Lin’s coats are still on the hanger. I put mine beside hers, but not so that I cover any of them.

I drift into the living room, drop down on the couch where we sat so often and watched videos and talked, and just goofed off. It feels cold now.

I get a little warmth by congratulating myself again on how much more in control of my emotions I am, than Lin’s mother.

I felt for her at the funeral, but it is hard to forget all the times we talked about how awful she was, and how much more of a friend I felt each time I affirmed it.

I curl up.


I don’t know for how long I lie there on the couch, crying. But when I come to myself and look out the window I can see that it’s dark.

And the couch still feels cold.

I get up, walk through the silent living room on bare feet and open the door to Lin’s room.

I have nothing left to do on my own, so I go into hers and just sit on her bed for a long time, taking it all in. How does a room feel when the one living there is no longer … living?

I’m suddenly overawed by the austerity of her room. In fact, the mega-bookshelf is the only real decoration. But it doubles as wallpaper – it fills the entire wall beside her bed – and paintings or posters.

In fact, there is only one other such decorative thing on her walls, right opposite the bookshelf.

I turn around in the bed and lie down so I can see both of them, the huge shelf and the picture.

It is an old photo, but the lake in it is still so blue that it hurts. She bought it on a flea market we went to just for fun, last summer. I thought it would absolutely not fit into her room and it would absolutely not fit her.

A lake in the Andes. Why would someone afraid of flying have a picture of that?

And now you will never get to see it … Lin.

I lie there on the bed, hands folded on my stomach and suddenly I feel the tears streaming down my cheeks again.

I feel it is hard to breathe so I try to sit up a little and then I notice that the bed actually feels warm.

Like you just slept in it.

Like it wasn’t a week ago when I found you here. And you were colder than …

It is odd and it gives me something to hold on to for a moment. Some peculiarity to turn over in my mind.

I look at the shelf and the back to the flea-market picture of Lake Titicaca in the Andes and I feel something that must be a ghost of a smile trying to come to my lips.

You always were a bundle, Lin. You loved old strange odd things, like that picture. Things that never fit in.

You never fit in, Lin.

You wanted wild and crazy things and times and places and people who never existed or who had ceased to exist.

I only dared to want that when you pushed me.

I loved you for it.

I close my eyes and when I open them again, all I can see is the blue in the picture to the right of Lin’s bed. And the white of the snow-capped, jagged Andes above them. Blue and white.

Azure dreams and snowy drops of heaven sprinkled on the rough edges of our life.

I can feel something that is … life. A spark, but it’s there. It is what I desperately grab for, like I could hold a random spark from an extinguished match, safely here in my heart while the hurricane dies.

I have to. I have to.

I have to go South.

I have a life here. I have friends. I have a scholarship that will be lost. I have the promise of getting a job that is so much more important and better paid than what my mother could ever get.

I have it all. Except what is at that lake and in those mountains.


Photo by Kirill Balobanov on Unsplash