Monday, June 21, 2010

The Mexican Candle

I bought one of those Mexican candles that are in all the bodegas around any Hispanic neighborhood in New York City. In its clear cylindrical jar, I’ve burned it for the past few months as a bit of a talisman for love and prosperity. There is no portrait of a saint or of the Virgin on the jar, so I assumed I could assign my own ritual to it as long as I have good intentions.

Six days ago, it had burned so far down, that I couldn’t light it anymore unless I had extra long matches or one of those grill lighters that is just a metal stick with a plastic handle. I have neither of those things, so I took to lighting long pieces of folded paper and holding them down into the jar until the wick would light. But even that stopped working, when I suppose the oxygen couldn’t get to the flame to keep it going. Surely this isn’t signaling the end of my prosperous love life.

I decided that the only way to take charge of my luck in love was to smash the jar. So I held it with a towel, and I smashed the top of it against my granite countertop and into my sink. An uneven break, this made a treacherous and craggy sharp-edged circle of glass guarding the candle from any hands that might try to light it. I lit it anyway, sneaking a lighter through one of the slits in the side, narrowly avoiding the knife-edge that could have easily sliced into my finger if I’d flinched even slightly.

With this haphazard and take-charge attitude, I met up with a former love. And craggy would be a generous description of our interaction that day. Emotionally violent, this was a wick forced to burn even when the guard was up. As if I’d cut a gash in my hand trying to light the candle, there was a terrible confrontation, and then the flame was out. For good this time.

This evening, I took out a hammer, and gently and strategically knocked off the sharpest and most dangerous shards from what was left of the jar. Then I tapped the sharp edge off the newly formed lip until the wax itself was just below the glass line. With a regular lighter, and at close range, I lit the wick, and it burned as if it had been given new life with room to breathe and even overflow a bit onto my mantle. Now I have a puddle of red wax flowing off the edge of the mantle that seems to never have been leveled and a candle that’s burning bright.

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