Published on February 8, 2020

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Photography by Aaron Bengochea

There is always something burning in my apartment. Occasionally it’s cinnamon toast that I’ve forgotten about, but most of the time, it’s a candle.

Lighting a candle is as essential to my daily routine as making my morning coffee, plugging in my phone, or unclasping my bra when the day is over. It’s instinctive and relieving—the type of unnecessary motion that has been repeated so often it’s become a reflex. If a doctor hit my knee, I’m sure I’d light a candle. What I’m trying to say is that I’m a candle person. 

I say this only partially because of my love of flickering, soft lighting and leathery, woody scents. The other reason I’ve embraced this title is because I’m decidedly not a plant person, and I wanted to be some kind of person. Now plants and candles are not mutually exclusive, but my inability to nurture any kind of greenery—yes, I’ve even killed succulents—has made me lean happily and completely into my wax-loving lifestyle. My windowsills are lined with tapers in repurposed wine bottles. Currently, my bathroom is home to seven candles, all at different levels of being burned. Every flat surface in my apartment is home to at least one varying in scent, shape, and price point. 

Buying, lighting, and disposing of candles, only to repeat the process, sometimes makes me feel like the Grim Reaper: I’m purchasing things with the sole intention of burning them into nothing. In The Dark Knight, Michael Caine’s Alfred describes the Joker by saying, “Some men just want to watch the world burn.” Is that me? Am I the Joker of candles? 

But no: It’s not so much the act of finishing the candle that I enjoy, but rather its impermanent life span composed of it being lit, snuffed out, and lit again. Unlike jeans, a vacuum, or a weighted blanket, no candle is bought with a single sliver of hope that it will last for years. Like vacations, parties, and some relationships, they don’t last forever, and they’re more precious for that very reason.

To me, every candle is a celebration of momentariness, and being a candle person means being someone who can celebrate momentariness. There’s a lot of power in the simple act of lighting a candle and letting it slowly, fragrantly go.

See more stories like this:
I Don’t Believe in Crystals—So Why Can’t I Stop Buying Them?
Why My Heart Belongs to Garage Sales
Living Alone Was Isolating—Until I Made This Change

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