The Fire Starter

“Hi. I’m V.”

I glanced up from my book and saw light. Their* smile; how it mirrored the magnetism of the Universe. Pulling me to them. Them to me. We met at a meditation retreat in Big Bear.

(*Both this person and myself use the pronouns ‘they, them’ as a singular. We exist outside of the binary.)

They later said they don’t know why they came and introduced themselves; it wasn’t their usual character.

I remember the pure joy we shared as they accompanied me to find a tree.

It was beautiful; this tree.

steady. still. gentle.

Not many render the word gentle to the descriptive visage of a tree. But.

I feel their gentleness every time we meet.

I remember us talking after one of the groups. How closely we sat; each one leaning against the other, closing the gap of time and space.

I remember the ease between us when I drove up for a visit. We sat separately, together; reading.

Shifted into subconsciousness as tiredness swept over us, then emerged from our afternoon naps in almost perfect synchronicity.

I remember the day I moved in. Departing San Diego at sunrise; car fully packed for the journey ahead. I remember how overwhelmed I felt, arriving at this unknown place.

Time and time again, I have stood here;

this precipice of change.

Daring to answer the call of my heart.

Risking everything that is for the possibility of what could be.

Daring to move: beyond comfort. beyond fear.

How irrational is this thing:

fear

Causing my breath to quicken in the night as I went from my bed to the bathroom.

darkness.

taunting

darkness.

haunting

Let’s not forget the horrors that have happened in the night.

Such a diligent tyrant is it,

fear

a skilled conjurer:

masterfully manifesting phantoms

hunting.

chasing.

reaching.

never satisfied with just the capture

it seizes.

Please don’t do this to me, I say.

I just want to go to the bathroom in peace.

Please don’t do this to me, we say.

I just really want to be free.

it cares not of our peace.

it cares not of our dreams.

it cares not of our soul.

it cares not of these things.

No amount of begging.

No amount of pleading.

Pointless are our attempts to employ reason.

resolved

relentless

its purpose

its mission:

to see just ‘how long’ it can keep us imprisoned.

how long can it get us to listen?

louder and louder

it calls.

LOuder and LOuder

it quickens.

LOUDer and LOUDer

it spreads.

LOUDER and LOUDER

it thickens.

such illustrious contortions

from this grand magician

the way it distorts. the way that it lies

anything to get us to listen:

“I know that with this person, you can’t share the deepest parts of you;

and what you really desire, is a love that feels alive.

But do you really want to risk being alone for something that may never be actualized?

At least you have ‘someone’ by your side.

You want to leave your job to follow a silly dream?

I’m not saying it won’t work out; but things don’t always go your way.

Your job isn’t that bad.

I just want you to be safe.

If you take these risks, who knows if you’ll be okay.

I know you don’t feel connected to your purpose;

you’re wondering if maybe there’s ‘more’.

But you don’t know what’s out there.

Do you really want to walk through that door?”

deceptive delusions

luring illusions

We.

are.

transfixed.

ensnared by this sham

we succumb.

fear then devours

it. has. won.

and now our demise:

we are…

undone

and what of our soul

our love and

our light

what of this precious

divine

birthright?

Well…

we install security systems

this room, we’ll paint green

we hang up our beautiful pictures

display all our shiny things

we host a big party

so all we know can see

just how happy we are

“I’m doing so well. Look at me.”

No.

We don’t escape our prisons.

we move in,

permanently.

“Look at what I’ve acquired.

Can’t you see that I’m happy here.

I have everything I need.

You have no proof of this prison of fear?”

we deny and we excuse

strategic in what we display

and in moments of stillness

we feel it rise. we feel the ache

Our soul,

stinging

Our soul,

screaming:

“I CANNOT BREATHE IN HERE.

SET. ME. FREE. OF. THIS. CAGE!

THERE IS ‘NOTHING’ ABOUT ME

THAT IS MEANT TO BE TAMED!”

we hear its voice as clear as day

we drown it out

we look away

and so we numb

this ache of our ‘existence’

we dare not look

at how our light has dimmed

we dare not look

at this decorated prison

Tell me.

How can something not real, achieve something so splendid?

your answer

please hold

there’s more of the story to be told.

as for that tyrant

when it spoke in my ear

I answered it back:

“I am safe.

I will NOT listen to fear.”

night after night

again and again

I recited my mantra

I would not let fear win

decades in its prison

I was finally free

I’ll be damned if I go back in

it would not capture me

I heard its voice. felt its rage

fear: desperate to seize

Until,

one day I left my room

and the only one I heard was me.

I told my housemate about my fear.

I remember their compassion; they bought night lights and put one in the hallway.

I remember when we drove to the desert; another meditation retreat. We played this game: finding things from a-z.

Speaking of games, competitive Scorpios that we are: I remember when we agreed on a tie in Phase 10. We laughed at our own ridiculousness of such an impossible thing.

I remember struggling throughout my time at the retreat. And I remember every time my friend showed kindness to me:

On day two, I found a note. One word was written, metta: a meditation practice of sending loving-kindness to ourselves and others. A heart was drawn but no name. It didn’t need one. I knew who it was from.

On day three, they came over, stooped down, placed their hands tenderly on my legs and asked how I was doing. They were warm. They were gentle.

I remember lounging on the couch at home, watching what we called ‘trash tv’.

We played singing bowls. We meditated. We danced it out. We were silly. We were free.

I remember when there was friction, we’d find a way to talk it out. There’s one conversation that still rests in my heart. We explored how we could be in harmony. How could ‘their strong’ and ‘my strong’ coexist in this space in a way that doesn’t wound. And if it does, how can we bring ourselves back?

“Strong soft.” I said.

“What does that mean?”

I expounded. ‘Their strong’ and ‘my strong’ could soften in moments when we find ourselves shifting into disharmony. We pause. We reflect. We soften to that which is in us. We soften to that which is in the other. And in this softening, we keep our ‘strong’. Can not the way of the warrior, be also the path of peace?

We agreed. We would commit to ‘strong soft’ in moments where our egos might emerge and lead us astray. When our egos might emerge and lead us away:

from connection

from being

away from light

away from seeing.

And emerged it did

it came like a fire

Putting to test

this ‘strong soft’ desire.

I remember the day they arrived. We were trying to get through another episode of trash tv before they drove up. Their partner, two children, two of their friends and two dogs, coming from Phoenix for spring break. The plan was for them to stay two weeks. It was at the start of the pandemic. My housemate decided that they wanted to do a trial live in with their partner. This trial was originally supposed to take place in June, which was going to be when I moved into a new place; they no longer wanted to wait.

Here it comes… the ignition.

This is not what we agreed. It feels overwhelming with all the change. It’s too much to ask of me.”

“This is what I want.” they said. “It’s my house so it’s really up to me.”

And there it was, our ego

the fire, it was lit

a small blaze, to begin

bigger and bigger, did it get.

I lost my job due to the organization needing to close its doors on account of the pandemic. I felt powerless; this is the last place I wanted to be. I remember waking up to this strange sound. It was around midnight. I looked toward my door and saw there was something on the floor. I turned my lamp on and discovered an envelope.

Inside it: a notice for me to move out.

Tinder.

I responded that I was unable to move due to the loss of my job and ongoing pandemic; California was one of the many states that put protections into place for renters.

Kindling.

“You still have 2.5 weeks to find housing. I will be seeking legal action if you fail to move out by May 31, 2020.”

Tinder.

“I know my rights.”

Kindling.

“This is legally my home. The sheriff will escort you out if you fail to leave on your own.”

Burn.

I remember this day; remember the burn; my heart scorched from the blaze.

I remembered George Floyd; it was after his murder. Only a mere four days.

We had both enrolled in a meditation facilitator training with InsightLA. It was the first day. I was in San Diego. Hearing the teachers speak of the principles of being in community, I remembered something.

Strong soft.

I sent them a text; surely we can find the path of peace

I remember looking at my phone

seeing their words and

for a moment, everything stood still

my breath. my body. frozen in space

surely, this is not real.

I came back to find my things removed from the laundry room. A lock on its door and not given a key.

Cracking and kindling

the fire I felt

from my blood

into my bones

the embers were spreading

the embers were catching

inside me

inside the home.

Please be still

was my plea

quiet is what I need from you

the thing about fire

it knows its own power

it would ‘not’ be told what to do

No.

this fire was wild

uncultivated

any attempts to quench it would not keep

this fire was loud

reverberating

Listen up. This fire would speak.

“Threatening a black person with police

you think that’s okay

I know you want me to move

but is ‘this’ the way

locking the laundry room

just to fuck with me

these tactics of using power

are rooted in white supremacy

you believe your status and skin

gives you the upper hand

but my ancestors are with me

against this, they will continue to stand

you think this is a threat

I assure you; it is not

waging war with fire isn’t safe

it is much too wild. much too hot

once it gets moving

it will not be easily stopped

you’re adding fuel

trying to burn me

do you think you can stand this close to the flame

and not also experience its heat?

this is not light.

this is darkness, can’t you see?”

“THEN LET ME HAVE MY DARKNESS!” They screamed.

Soon after, they filed an eviction notice. Their partner drew a picture of an hourglass and placed it on the front door. I was sitting close by, writing, ‘Not My Father.’ The children asked who it was for. I remember hearing ‘This is for Kai.’ I didn’t respond:

something new was being birthed out of me.

The next month, they went to a friend’s house nearby in preparation for their surgery. The partner, children and dogs all left.

One day they came to the house; I assume it was just to check up on things.

My friend was visiting from San Diego and they asked him to leave.

When he didn’t, they called the police.

more kindling

it didn’t stop there

it was difficult to breathe

with all the smoke in the air

then came the night

the flames combusted everywhere

One day when they came to pick up some things, I heard them whisper to their partner that they would return to the house after I left. I hadn’t said I was moving.

I remember,

something was stirring

on this night

I could feel.

I’d love to believe this night was really just a dream

but I have the scars

they are with me,

still

I could hear my intuition saying to put the security latch on the backyard door. The backyard has a huge brick fence; secure inside the gated community. Still, I decided to listen. I was restless. It was almost 1am and I couldn’t sleep.

I heard a noise and looked out; someone was in the backyard. I heard the door unlock. I heard the key. Then banging, as the person pushed harder and harder trying to get in. The latch; preventing their entry. I turned on a light and called the police. I stayed on the phone with the dispatcher until the police arrived, in two minutes time; the police station being only a block away. They looked around, took my report and then left.

Two days later, my housemate and partner came by the house. Unaware that I was watching, the partner ‘tested’ a key to the backyard door. They had sent someone to break in.

I try not to think about what would have happened if I hadn’t put the latch on the door. But I do:

Think about it.

This person I loved

and once called my friend

knew of past horrors

that took place on my skin

they knew where to strike

knew precisely where to hit

this was the burn

my body would not forget.

Where is your evidence

can you prove it was them

I’m just sharing my story

I’m not here to convince

I wish I could say that on this night, I was brave

reminisce on how boldly I stood up to fear

but this was the scorch, that would do me in

there was nothing but ashes left here.

I placed my mattress against my door

laid down in a fetal position

held tightly to my ‘leigh bear’

avoiding capture, my only mission

fear howled and it screamed

it pursued.

then seized

and just like that,

I was back in its prison

Shortly after, I packed up my car and drove across the country to go stay with my sister.

This fire had burned. This fire had blazed

destroying everything that dare stand in its way

this fire, it broke

this fire, it took

on my way out

I took one more look

the rubble. remains

devastation. the debris

what had become of them

what had become of me

what was under this ruin

what was it that I couldn’t see

what’s behind the smoke

what lies underneath

was it anger. was it hate

was it white supremacy

were these at the root

or were they just a smokescreen

closer and closer I looked

Until,

what did I find

that old tyrant fear

that trickster

trying to hide.

Wow. mad respect

I must admit you’re really good

the way you have us looking

at everything

but you.

I took a deep breath

It was time for me to go

from deep in my heart

these last words I spoke:

I’m sorry.

Please forgive me.

I love you.

I thank you.

Ho’oponopono:

A prayer sent out into the Universe, if you will.

“To cause things to move back in balance”, is what the word translates to.

It is a Hawaiian practice of healing and forgiveness. At its core it simply means: at some time, at some moment, I have caused harm. I haven’t always chosen the way of light. And in doing so, I contribute to the darkness and fear that exists in this plane. It does not mean that I deserved to experience this trauma or that the Universe is somehow ‘paying me back.’ No, this Universe, with its massive love, is much more gracious than that. It simply acknowledges that within me, within us, are both light and dark.

My intention. my desire:

to choose love

to choose light

my humanity. this condition

does not always get that right

this darkness that is in them

is part of my makeup as well

I’ve set many of fires

I’ve got my own stories to tell

so I send metta to this being

whose metta I also once knew

I send love with the hope

that they escape fear’s prison, too.

the divine that is in me

recognizes the divine that is in them

for is this not the reason

we came.

is this not the reason we’re here

to live out our soul’s purpose

to be free

from prisons of fear

did we travel all this way

just to ‘play it safe’

breath into us

to live our lives out in a cage?

Answer this question for you

I will answer the question for me

I am here for something

much, much bigger you see

for it alone possesses the power

to, from prison’s fear,

set me free.

It’s the thing that gave me life

It is what I am made of

I came here for one thing and one thing only

‘This’ is what I came here for

I came here for LOVE.

-Kai Alexzander Love

Photo by Christopher Burns on Unsplash

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