Turning 26 and burning a little too bright

My design aesthetic: scented candles and Iowa basketball bobbleheads.

My design aesthetic: scented candles and Iowa basketball bobbleheads.

I wandered around Target on Saturday looking for matches. That was all I needed, really. OK, and some wine, a crop top, eye shadow and a planter. It is Target, you know.

I’ve gotten really into scented candles recently. I have one named “Baltic Amber.” I’m not sure what the hell that means, but I like it anyway.

When I asked an employee at Target where I could find matches, he said, “Uh, no one really buys matches anymore. Most people use the plastic lighters. They’re over here.”

I wanted my damn matches.

There’s something about the sound of lighting a match, the way it burns a little too close to my fingertips, the way the smoke lifts its way into the air, hanging on for a second too long, clouding everything else in gray. A matchbox costs 92 cents at Target. I wanted my damn matches.

I have a grapefruit papaya candle, too. I asked for more candles for my birthday. My mother has been lighting them for years, the fancy, gigantic, seemingly limitless Yankee ones. The ones you could only buy overpriced at Hallmark in my hometown.

She loves the scent of lilac candles, especially. When we went to Slovakia two years ago, she bought a beautiful tea light in Bratislava. She sends my sister and me a photo of it every time she uses it. It’s delicate and bright and perfect.

I turn 26 today. I’ve thought about it a lot, the way things burn out quickly, the way we light them hoping they’ll last. The way a candle is warm to the touch. I can only move it so far until it’s too much.

Suddenly, I remember the ex-boyfriend who said, “For being so little, you sure are A LOT.” Most of us burn a little too bright at some point, I think, and that’s OK.

I don’t know that I’ve ever struck a match before this year. I never really had a reason to. I’m not the outdoorsy campfire nature-girl type.

But I sure have been burning a little too long, a little too close to my fingertips for years, icing angst under cold water as if to quiet that sense of being “too much.” As if it were a bad thing.

If we don’t burn a little too long, a little too bright sometimes, what the hell are we doing here.

So, I light another candle. I turn off all the lights. There’s something about seeing the ebb and flow of the flame, the way it flickers and fades. The way it welcomes me into the last year of my mid-20s, allowing me to burn a little too bright, to flicker out sometimes, then to reignite, ready as ever to burn the white cisheteropatriarchy to the ground.

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