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Fire Diaries - Part 1

Rachel Saylor

I have been searching for closure after facing trauma. This story you are about to read takes you on this journey with me. I decided to type this story in it’s entirety on the typewriter my husband surprised me with this Christmas. I have placed a typed up copy of my story in my old mailbox:

Mailbox #2 6472 Highway 105
Boone, NC 28607

If you are interested in reading the story at the actual site that my trauma took place, it is sitting in the mailbox, waiting for your hands to envelope it and your mind to be transplanted to scenes that took place there. I only ask that you return the story back to the mailbox when you are finished partaking for the next reader to experience.

I will be posting my story in installments on my blog every week, but the full copy is available to read in mailbox #2 if you want to have a tangible experience with this story.

Disclaimer: The names of the neighbors and the neighbor’s dog have been changed.


No Mail Housed Here

I love getting letters, especially beautifully handwritten, heartfelt letters. Sometimes, I will delve into a letter, right there at the mailbox, not wanting to be patient and savor the sweet words. Other times, I will try to withhold my impatience, and instead I will quicken my step up to the apartment while clutching the note, anxious to rip it open and gobble up the words. I sit down at the table to take in the whole precious moment of it all. Each way of reading a letter gives me tremendous joy and it feeds my soul. I don't know why exactly, but I was hoping to receive one last letter from that old mailbox of ours, even though I knew that letter would never come.

Each day, for weeks, as I drove past what once was our home, I would glance at our old mailbox. There were five mailboxes total, all lined up at the bottom of the parking lot, close to the road, labeled 1-5. Ours was #2. No longer was mail being delivered there, yet our #2 mailbox, out of the five that stood intact in triumph to the rest of the scorched surroundings, hung wide open. Austin told me he pulled off the road, into the parking lot, and closed it once, but the next day it was hanging open again, flaunting its flexible hinges.   

Each time I approached the site, I would wriggle in my seat to sit up taller so I could be prepared to look at the mailbox. Each day it sat perched there, its door open with visibly no mail inside, to taunt me, saying, "Look, no one lives here anymore. You receive no mail here. Your home is no longer here, so move along."

This was my relationship with our old mailbox for a couple of weeks. That is until one day, something struck me. My thought flow went something like this:

"What if the mailbox is actually trying to tell me I do have mail, but I'm just not looking for it in the right place. Maybe it isn't even physical mail, but words that I need to hear."

Then a very pivotal thought entered my mind.

“What if this is a sign for me to begin to write letters. To tell my tale. But instead of it being a secretive piece of mail for only the owner's eyes, it would be an open diary that laid it all out there from my perspective, describing exactly how this mess went down and what it is doing to me internally, for all to read.”

So, that is exactly what I am setting out to do now. To write out my tale from my honest and open perspective for anyone to read through.

The mailbox remains shut these days, as if saying, "You did good. You figured it out, and now my work is done here, so I'll just close up shop."

Although the entire complex has been taken down, those five mailboxes stand strong, jaws clenched tight and in erect formation. I thank that little mailbox for being my inspiration and pushing me to do this. As strange as it came about, I owe it to that retired letter holder of mine for leading me in this direction.

Saturday morning I pop out of bed at 7am, ready for the day. The night before, my husband, Austin, and I wrote hour by hour what our next day would entail, beginning with getting up at 7am.

7 to 8: Write and design

8 to 9: Run

9 to 10: Get chicken biscuits at Stick Boy

10 to 11: Run errands

The list continues all the way up to 10pm: Go to sleep.

We're living out the schedule well so far when my mom texts me. It is now 7:15am. She is coming up to Boone spontaneously and wants to meet at Melanie's for breakfast. This means my writing will have to be pushed back, but I am not letting that stop me feeling pumped for the day.

“Damn,” I thought, “No chicken biscuit from Stick Boy for me.”

My husband suggests an alternative plan where we leave early, grab a biscuit at Stick Boy and get coffee and juice at Melanie's. Perfect!

After we put our order in at Stick Boy, we wait for our biscuit on a bench on the far right wall, out of the way, and in the perfect spot for people watching.

We are chatting and laughing when Austin says, "Oh my god. Is that John?"

I whip my head to where Austin's eyes are transfixed. Sure enough, waiting there in line looking cracked out and honestly like total shit, stood John. The guy responsible for ripping part of my soul out.

I warned Austin ahead of time that if I ever saw John in public I would lose it.

My adrenaline rush pushes through my veins and my chest heaves as I lock eyes on what I consider to be the scum of the earth. My arms rush with the natural response of fight (yes, instead of flight) and I prepare myself to lay one, right on his cheekbone.

"Jesus Fucking Christ." I unknowingly speak out.

Austin snaps me back when he says, "You can just leave. There's a door right beside us. You can walk out."

"Really?" I respond in a daze.

I turn to my left and see my exit, only an arm's length away from where I am sitting. I don’t hesitate. I just stand up and grab the handle. When I walk outside, I release the breath I was holding in and let out a deep sigh.

I walk around the parking lot as I let my body relax and come down from the adrenaline rush. I try recalling my words I spoke when I saw him, but I couldn't really remember. Austin fills me in later.

It feels like eternity has passed by the time Austin comes out with our biscuit in hand.

We get in the car and drive away. I thank Austin for giving me an out. My opening line I was going to vomit as soon as I locked eyes with John was not going to be very becoming and would cause a scene. The craziest part was how completely out of control of my body and words I was in that moment. I needed Austin to snap me out of it.  

John's dopey eyes and dirty hair are embedded in my head, and I flashback to when he was stumbling all over the parking lot, looking up at the burning building, yelling out drunken nonsense. I cringe and shake my head to try and rid the memory.

I was quickly beginning to think that mailbox #2 was trying to warn me, not give me closure. “Don’t get too comfortable,” it tells me, “This is always going to come back to haunt you.”