A coal fire. I watch, and pull down the blanket so he can come and snuggle underneath it as he steps back and the flames leap up. He lights it like it’s nothing- and it is, to him. He used to do this all the time at his old place, he tells me, smiling as I express my admiration. Then he kisses me gently, puts his arms around me, both of them, all around, and I cuddle gratefully into his shoulder.
It’s not nothing to me. I remember the last time I was in front of a fire like this. Another time, another man. He had made a great fuss about everything he was doing- booking the holiday cottage, finding one with a fire. He had it in his head that we had to be in front of a fire. The expectation started as a background, and became less subtle as the time of the trip grew near. That this one weekend would fix everything. He was absolutely certain. My own misgivings were irrelevant.
That time, I watched him fuss and poke and coax at the fire, but to no avail. Maybe the coal was worn out, maybe it was just too cold, maybe he was going about it the wrong way. It took him two hours to admit defeat. By the time he did, I was already in bed asleep. His certainty of the power of that weekend persisted, even then, even when lighting a fire had been more important to him than talking to me.
But I’m grateful, in the end. Without that going wrong, I wouldn’t have known how to make a relationship go right.
The fire in front of me crackles and glows. So does the one that is fuelled by the man I’m with now, by his quiet, kind words, his arms, his kisses. And the fact that he never deals in absolutes.