“…one can indeed escape the fire, and still perish through the means of that escape. — Ocean Vuong, The weight of our living: on hope, fire escapes, and visible desperations
While walking the streets of Hartford mourning his Uncle who committed suicide, Ocean’s attention was drawn to the huge metals erected along buildings: fire escapes. What else do these structures, eminent even today, represent?
Fire escapes: a gateway to freedom, an escape route, a passage to life, new beginnings, hope — an emblem of danger and destruction, a constant reminder of the impermanence of life and the ever-lurking fear of death and endings. An ensign of disaster — a bridge between living and dying. Vulnerability and safety. Escaping and being trapped. A symbolism of fear. A picturesque of redemption. The Plan A in times of crisis (and sometimes a crisis in itself). An antithesis.
Humans can be fire escapes too. They can mean all these same things to us and serve similar purposes — not just a grotesque architecture attached to buildings. Humans can be elevations and demotions, ushering in light and darkness from different angles. They can be a refuge and a raging storm; that one body. Maybe that’s why the line between love and pain is becoming blurred because of the calm and wreck a person can cause you. Maybe that’s why even in moments of fulfillment you’re subconsciously, evidently reminded that disappointment is palpable. That pain is likely. That you are vulnerable though you are safe. That you are surrounded by fire escapes. And you can be trapped in the process of escape. Or you can escape. That you can be loved. You can live. You can take the chances. And you can perish while taking the chances.
But there’s no way to ward off the idea of people, or chances, we need them as long as we exists — for relationships and to move on. The same way buildings, no matter how highly elevated and beautiful needs a fire escape as a guarantor of safety to its user in cases of urgency, emergency, or danger. This is ultimately the weight of our living, and the complexity of relationships: we are capable of disaster, and we are scared but we have to live. We ought to live, even with the fire escapes.