Mama-San gave me a vintage candle holder as a souvenir. It was handcrafted of forged steel and had a shiny patina (it had been well used). Its unique spring-shaped metal adjusted to fit the size of the candle. The sharp dagger point could be stabbed into a sandbag or between the wooden joints of an ammo box which held the candle securely. She claimed it was used in tunnels or bunkers by the Viet-Minh during the French occupation.
The holder worked well with the “Ha-ze” candles that Sumo got me in Tokyo. While writing to Jenny, it was jammed into my wooden headboard and gave a constant glow of un-flickering light. There was no black smoke, soot or fragrance.
I gazed into the soft light, and it reminded me of a place . . . Where was this place? I had been there with Jenny. I closed my eyes to concentrate and finally remembered it was a downstairs candle shop at Olvera Street in Los Angeles. We both had visited this historical attraction as kids, and we went back to experience it again during our engagement. It was a fun day, and we spent time watching a glass blower make small figurines of blown glass. We bought a tiny teacup and saucer, and we ate taquitos with guacamole from a food stall.
The Ha-ze candle had me mesmerized for a moment, and I included this flashback in my letter to Jenny. Sometimes we wrote about random recollections. Our time apart distorted some memories in my mind’s eye.
After finishing the letter, I snuffed out the candle and lay on my rice hull pillow * in the dark. I held Jenny’s latest letter close, and thoughts of her put me to sleep.
* See previous blog, “Rice Hull Pillow” February 14, 1968