I haven’t lived in the same house my entire life—in the past few years alone, I’ve moved at least three times, not including all the different dorms I’ve been in on campus. I have an attachment to my things (they’re comforting to have and it would be a lie for any of us to say that we didn’t have a fondness for any one material good). But, assuming you have lived in a house for any extended period of time, I assume that the loss of it would feel like losing a family member.
I won’t talk about specifics, because I don’t think I can.
I will say that there’s a lot of devastation that comes with a traumatic moment, with finding yourself homeless (that, I do know), with not being able to hold onto anything you know.
The snow is falling even though it’s April, and it looks a lot like ash. The fire alarm in my dorm went off at 1:30 AM Friday night, waking me in the middle of a dream where Jesus, personally, was yelling at me for some sin I must have committed (though I don’t remember it). Though I typically have the shades open, or a strand of lights plugged in when I go to bed, I had had a migraine earlier that day and went to bed in total darkness. When the alarm went off, I swore and, without thinking about anything other than the desperate need to leave the building and get away from the noise (alarms and sirens are always a promise to set off a panic attack for me), I grabbed my keys and my phone and left.
It didn’t matter that the fire wasn’t real, or that the alarm was probably triggered because of some college student making the decision to cook Easy Mac without remembering to add water to the bowl, I didn’t think beyond making sure I was out of the building. I was barefoot, hoping there weren’t shards of glass in the dirt. When you’re half asleep and thrown into a panic state, you’re never able to think.
But the building wasn’t on fire, like so many others have been, and luckily, it wasn’t snowing then.
When we got back inside, my suitemate pointed out to me that my heel was bleeding, something I hadn’t even noticed because I hadn’t felt the cut, smooth and thin and short.
I sat catatonic for a little on my floor after washing the blood and dirt off my feet (think of it like if you’re gardening and you cut your arm on a rose bush and don’t notice until you’re watering it). The panic was starting to wear off and I didn’t want to take anything for it, even though afterward, when I did manage to climb back into my bed, each noise made me feel like I was going to jump out of my skin.
So, if that’s what a fire alarm with no smoke does to me, I don’t want to know what an actual fire resulting in the loss of my home, my things, everything I know, would do to me. I assume that it might be similar to the feeling I had when I lost my dad. I didn’t want to talk about it when it happened, even though I probably needed to. I don’t think I would want to talk about my house catching on fire unless absolutely necessary, either: some of us just feel a lot more capable of continuing forward after trauma by acting like nothing happened, like everything is normal, like our lives haven’t been changed. If we pretend that nothing has changed, maybe we can convince ourselves that that’s true enough to keep functioning.
But if we don’t talk about it, if we don’t talk about these events, I think we’re also running the risk of suffocating from the ash, or snow, or whatever it is that’s drowning us. I think that for all we want to be able to keep moving, sometimes, we need to cry. We can’t be strong every single second. Even emperors weep.