Tuesday, July 01, 2008

The Forbidden Candle

Dead men have no secrets.

Neither do dead women. Particularly dead old people who had milled through a litter of children, grandchildren, nieces, cousins and adopted babies from China.

When a person dies, particularly an old person, an old person with a large family, eventually, all of their old crappy knickknacks and baubles get sold.

And THAT, my friends, is where the fun begins.

Estate sales, I discovered early on, are a morbid exercise in the macabre. As soon as grandma goes, the goon squad arrives and puts price tags on her stuff. They valuate her vanities. They liquidate her lithographs.

Everything must go. Be early to acquire the Afghans. Come late to steal the stereo.

Estate sales are great to find a curiosity or capture a bargain. Best of all, though, they are your one opportunity to wander through your dead neighbor's secret garden of delights. Voyeurs welcome, for once.

And it was at one of these grotesque garage sales that the missus and I found the amazing box. We had no money, or nearly close to none at the time. We did have time, however, and were on the wary lookout for Saturday entertainment. It became a game to sort through old stuff and reconstruct the tale of a life gone by.

And in the middle of the game, one sweet Summer Saturday, as I nosed around the bedroom closet, I spotted a large white cardboard gift box, wide as it was tall, bulging around the middle. The price on the side said $2.00. I thought I could handle that.

The box was heavy and crammed with candles. Long, short, skinny, wide, it was an assortment of fabricated wax forms and wicks. $100.00 worth, a deal I could not refuse.

Having returned home, I rummaged through the loot and spied a familiar yet long-forgotten artifact from my own childhood. It was tall waxy and dusty. It felt heavy with with hardened carbo hydrates. It was a vintage decorative ribbon candle from the 1970s, and it was identical to the one my parents kept on the coffee table when I was a kid.

Problem was, my mom would never burn the damn thing. I mean, it was a candle. it had a wick. But no, it was forbidden. It was special. It was decorative.

Eventually, ugly brown ribbon candles went out of style as interior decorating centerpieces, and the candle was lost in storage. After all those years, I never had the satisfying opportunity to torch the sucker.

Until that day, many years later when I opened the candle box. And there it was. Not the same candle, mind you, but an identical twin. I managed to hold off for a while. days, even. However, the temptation grew too strong and I set match to wick in a release of built up combustible tension. It burned. It melted. I felt good.

It was that indescribable act of violating the forbidden. Casting away the useless and arbitrary rules of the past. Completing a small chapter of personal history.

I let the candle burn for a long time.

And all of this came to mind this weekend, when, in a pre-shower fit of dismay, I discovered that we were completely out of shower soap. This led to digging deep into the supply bucket, where I pulled out a very old craft-paper-wrapped bar of hand-made soap. Fancy soap. Decorative soap.

The smelly bar had sat, literally, for years, unused, next to the bathroom sink. It had moved with us, changing houses and changing bathroom counters. It had become a fixture, forbidden, unusable. It had long since fallen from conscious consideration or even recognition as soap.

Yet, there it was, in my hand, unearthed from it's dark resting place in the closet. By definition, I surmised, if the soap is not being used to decorate anything, then it is not decorative, and so the paper came off, and it joined me in the shower.

Surprisingly, it turned out to be good soap, which was made all the more enjoyable, knowing that it was once a holy relic, forbidden to be used.


  1. I think the candle is a metaphore for the guilt that you have for loosing your salvation and in turn a real christian relationship with your mom. It's like taking the Lord's name in vain. Forbidden...alluring...addictive. But dont worry the plastic Jesus from yesterday will save you.

    Nah, im just being wierd. I'm glad you burned the fucker.

  2. I like soap. There is a Lush store at in the Nartia terminal that I usually stop by. Lush is my Starbucks. All around the world, it is always there.

  3. Oosje6:26 AM

    I, too, discovered "sacred" things, never to be used when I packed up my parents house. Instead of my grandparents crystal glasses being enjoyed until they broke, they were never even seen. They took me by complete surprise. It was a lesson. Either use the stuff you have or don't have it!

    In our over-materialistic society we buy, buy, buy thinking the object will make us happy and then don't allow ourselves to use the object. How fucked is that!

    wow..a little bit heavy for an early morning comment.
    I'm glad you used the soap too. I even used some of the "special hotel soap" last time I was at your house. I made sure I used the very best of what was in the drawer. Did you notice?

  4. auntie bsu7:47 AM

    Toxic clutter is what I would classify unused soaps and candles as. I think I'll declutter today and open a hotel soap.

  5. Anonymous7:49 AM

    Maybe the candle represents your inability to come to grips with your gayness. Light that candle you flamer.

  6. Lucky Red7:51 AM

    My Aunt Mary use to have fancy little balls of pink soap-one per wash- that would turn into powder once you put with water and little hands- poof. Magic to make me rush to wash up and they were just for me. If I could find them again I would buy a case...
    Crap. I think I'm tearing up...now I feel the urge to google them and call my Aunt Mary...
    Damn you Mr. G & T

  7. dead granny7:55 AM

    Wouldn't you like to know what I used to do with the candle?

  8. Lucky Red, if you find that soap share the details!
    Kids everywhere thank you.

    Damn, now I want a Mr. Bubble t-shirt.

  9. Let me speak, I believe for everyone, in that I certainly don't want any details about what Mr. G&T rubs on himself while in the shower.

    If you think the CANDLE had a special shape, wait till you see the soap...

    That's all I'm sayin'...

  10. hmmm. No wonder there was soap on a rope in the guest bathroom.


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