Many people wince at the thought of fire, at the thought of the burn, and the destruction. They hate the idea of the screams and the death that comes in its wake – but I embrace the flame of hell fire. I dance in the sparks craving the burn to the music of the screams. I wear the death like a perfume and view the carnage as a painting. The shades of red and gold shine in my eyes and illuminate the streets as it reflects off the blood of its victims. It is beautiful, this suffering. Maybe it makes me a monster, maybe it makes me a goddess. But I will keep this flame alive for as long as I have breath in me.
Snow fell soundlessly from the heavy clouds above as you and Harry trekked home from his birthday dinner. He had suggested calling a taxi when you left his friends at the restaurant, mentioning that the two of you may have had a few too many and it was a bit chilly for a midnight stroll. But the second the first flake hit your nose and you took in the way the light from the street lamps reflected off the fresh fallen snow down the path toward home, you insisted on walking.
“It’s like a postcard, Harry,” you said hopefully, pushing him to concede. Your giddy smile and flushed cheeks are what got him to agree even though he knew you’d both be chilled to the bone by the time you got home. But for now you had each other and the alcohol in your bellies to keep warm.
You had both drank more than you planned, especially Harry. But the wine had been flowing and the conversation among friends was rolling; it was the most at ease you had seen Harry in weeks. Prepping for tour always got him a bit stressed, and you only had a few more weeks before he hit the road again, so you weren’t going to put a stop to the drinking and dampen the mood. You just hoped Harry would be up for all you had planned upon the return home; you knew how a wine drunk got him a bit sleepy.
But you were reassured that Harry was less drunk than he seemed as you cut through the park together and you lost your footing a bit on the slick footpath. Before you could tumble sideways into the snowdrifts, Harry’s grip on your hand tightened as he reached to steady you by the waist. He looked down at you, checking to make sure you were all right and as an amused smile broke out across your lips, he busted out laughing.
Laughter echoed through the empty park. You clung to the edges of Harry’s coat, burying your face in his chest as you continued to giggle. His hand caressed the back of your neck as he kissed your temple. “And I thought I had too much to drink, love.”
“Hey!” You swatted his chest playfully, causing him to put his hands up to defend himself. “I’m not drunk, the path is icy.”
“Harry, really!” you giggled. “I’m not drunk.” He eyed you knowingly. It may have been dark, but you knew his eyes were shining as they always did when he was being playful. “Just a bit tipsy.”
“Just a bit tipsy,” he repeated, throwing his arm over your shoulders and continuing the journey home.
“Yes,” you said firmly before adding under your breath, “I needed to boost my confidence for later anyway.”
“Hmm?” Harry glanced down at you with intrigue. You gave him a coy smile and shrugged. He wasn’t satisfied, but he didn’t feel the need to press further. Home was close and he’d get it out of you soon enough.
Sometimes, John and Sherlock will take it in turns to deduce the people around them: sitting in Speedy’s having a cuppa; strolling through Regent’s Park; or looking down at the street from their living room window. It doesn’t really matter where. They could make up their own beautiful stories and lives for hours.
Once, Sherlock stops John in Oxford Street, pointing at their reflections in a shop window. “What do you think of them?” he asks. It is an over-exaggerated, theatrical, playful… and yet still carefully intimate question. Sometimes, John wonders at how he has ended up with the ‘romantic’ label, because honestly.
He smiles at their reflections, and then turns to Sherlock, pulling him closer with one hand.
The nine rowhouses a few blocks from Johns Hopkins Hospital stood for more than a century, through waves of immigration, two world wars, the upending of the city’s economy and a shift in its racial makeup.
The arched windows along the 900 block of North Bradford Street reflected both the boom and the decline of a great American city: the prosperous midcentury, when all nine households could afford the Formstone that covered their brick fronts; the tumult of 1968, when residents could smell the smoke from nearby riots; the white flight that would open the street to African Americans and the drug wars that would drive many of them away.
Since it was built on an old brickyard in 1905 by the “two-story king of East Baltimore,” hundreds of people have called the block home.
But only one of them was there to see that history end.
Block by block, Baltimore is demolishing its blight – and pieces of its past.