The Fundamentals Of Joy by B.B Blerta Berisha

THE HAPPIEST CANDLE

I was once told that there are two ways to spread light: to be the candle, or the mirror that reflects it.

I never liked the idea of being a mirror. To me, it meant that you did not give off light: you simply reflected it. Being a mirror meant I would watch a candle’s fire roar, exploding into a plethora of hazardous colours, radiating warmth to others...and I would watch.

So I chose to be the candle.

I walked the streets one morning with my light strongly lit, and my waxy figure tall and sturdy. The sad faces of many other candles passed by me and I watched over them, the grief washing over me. It was more than sadness, it was a look of pure and utter nothingness that bewitched these candles. For as long as I can remember, there was not a candle in this world that could give an authentic smile. There was not a candle that could wake up and look at the day ahead with excitement. There was not a candle like that but myself.

“Excuse me,” I spoke, pausing a candle who passed by me first. He paused, his eyes glazing over for several seconds before meeting mine. The cold grey in them would have scared me years ago, but not anymore. I was ashamed to admit that I had learned to get used to and accept the dull ways of the world. He gave a rather unpleasant gruff, as if to question my stopping him. “May I interest you in a joke?”

It was the following actions which injected utter melancholy in me. I focused on the dissatisfaction which rose in his eyes, the tightness of his jaw as he sneered at me. He brushed past me without a second glance, the aggressiveness forcing a cold feeling to rush through me. I turned to offer an apology but he was already walking hastily, as if he feared I would approach him a second time.

A sigh escaped me as I turned back around, offering a smile to a woman who stood idly near me. I grinned at the smaller candles by her sides, who stared up at me unknowingly, their miniature flames flickering with curiosity. 

“A great day today, m’am? Mm?” I greeted, offering my hand, waxy from the heat of my candle. “How would you like to hear a joke?”

She pulled her candles close towards her, protectiveness radiating from her as if I was hazardous. They assembled themselves together, fearful of my words. I saw the gloom in the trio, the complete disgust they saw in my smile, the shock at the idea of happiness in this town. It was not a positive shock. In fact, they seemed to want to escape it. I raised my eyebrows in question, offering a warm glow. She only lowered her eyes, avoiding contact with me. The joy I radiated that fought with her unhappiness, it was something she didn’t like. I watched as the children glared at me, their own little flames flaring.

“Good day to you,” she murmured, her head low as she grabbed the children and began scurrying off. I watched as their lights flickered back and forth in the wind as they walked with speed, with motivation. My eyebrows furrowed together with confusion, for I had been turned down a second time.

I hung my head low as I pondered what had happened. Was it the colour of me? As far as I knew, every candle in town was the same as I. Was it something I said? No, that wasn’t it. I was polite, I knew I was. I blew out a heavy breath, feeling my light dimmer. It was as if I had been punched in the stomach, as if someone had sliced a chunk of wax out of me, as if my light had been taunted and blown at.

“Still remember that joke?”

I turned quickly, stunned to see a candle standing before me. He was different, I knew instantly. I took in his appearance, which left me with my mouth hung open. He was built of black wax, a rare phenomenon. It glistened brilliantly in the sunlight, and his tall figure stood not with authority, surprisingly, but rather friendly energy. I watched the flame above him dance back and forth, exerting joy and peace. He smiled, and it was meaningful in every way. His face shone as he smiled, and I swore it would melt the wax of any other candle in this town no matter how sad they were. His smile seemed to speak to me, as if to comfort me in a way. It was a smile that would melt the grounds in the coldest world.

So I told him.

I told him my joke.

I watched as his eyes shone with amusement. He threw his head back and roared with laughter. Thunder could have reached the town and gone unnoticed compared to the howls emitting from him. He cried out as he leaned forward, staggering slightly. I watched as his flame flickered with excitement, and I smiled. This was nothing like the polite, sunny smiles I offered to the other candles of this town. This smile expressed my gratitude for his joy. It showed I was glad to find a candle who was like me and unlike me in every way.

He faced me once again, releasing a final laugh. This was more powerful than before. It was electrifying, in fact. After years of dealing with the melancholy I came to know and hate within the other candles, the intense happiness within him was strange. Scary, if anything. My flame flickered with fear as he continued to grin at me, crow’s feet appearing at his eyes. His energy, it was overbearing. I felt myself take a step back as I grew dizzy, for his howls of laughter destroyed me. I felt my wax crack under the pressure, hardening as my flame turned dim. I finally gave in, falling to the floor as the flame completely put out.