I set number seven ablaze. I’m surprised I didn’t think of it sooner. I was stoned at the time – when the impulse took me. I put the chip pan on and went out. It’s the most common cause of household fire, the chip pan. I was standing across the road watching when the fire brigade arrived. It was only then that the enormity of what I’d done hit me. I was shaking. I was in shock. I stood there among my neighbours and watched the smoke fuming from the roof. I could see the flames through the windows. All my possessions were burning. Everything I owned was being turned to cinders.
I was a bit embarrassed when the fireman guessed correctly that I was off my face, “the most common cause of household fires” he said. Fire cleanses, fire destroys and fire renews. Friends gathered around to console me, “At least no-one was hurt – are you insured?” At that moment I just did not give a shit. I would rise from the ashes. I was looking forward to it.
A few days later I was allowed to enter the building to retrieve any belongings that I could. To my surprise my bedroom – though covered in a thick layer of soot – was basically intact. I found a shoe box crammed full of old letters and postcards, a lifetime’s worth of correspondence. They were miraculously undamaged by the fire. I scanned through them – old lovers, friends, relatives – bitter sweet memories. They burned very nicely. One by one they joined with the ash on the floor.