Requiem for a Lantern

It feels as if my heart has just been ripped out. This beating organ of love and compassion has plummeted from my chest down to my feet. Forget high school break-ups and false rumors. No one can cause me the amount of distress a fire inspector can. I should probably rewind. Where did this all begin? Well, I suppose I can start with the call from my house counselor just as I walked through the door to sign in. She told me to see her before I went up. Little did I know, I would soon be told that the one thing that brought me so much joy and so much comfort here at Phillips Academy was a “fire hazard.” My naïve and unsuspecting self took one look at those mocking yellow sheets of paper that she ruffled on her desk and thought nothing of them. I had just returned from watching a war movie for my history class, and it was all too soon for my weakened heart to handle the information she would bear. I smiled at her. She returned it with a smile of her own before telling me that my Japanese lanterns would have to come down. There it is. I typed it. The three beautiful lanterns—in shades of pink, green and white—that hang from the peaceful heaven of my ceiling will have to descend from their perch, compress themselves back into flat circles of material and enter their undeserved and unjustified place in a corner on my floor. I am not the only one who grieves. Hall meetings and random hangouts commenced in my room because of the attractiveness of these lanterns. The feng shui, the peace, it was all a part of the draw. The news of the lanterns’ departure solicited more than one “Nooooo!” from many rooms down the hallway. Gone is the soft glow the draping lanterns gifted to my walls. Gone is my neglect for the other harsher lighting available to me. Gone is the desire to sigh at the simple elegance upon entering the room. Gone is the room I have dreamed of since childhood, for it is the epitome of a trendy teen’s bedroom. Now my dorm room has been reduced to an ordinary, lifeless abode. This is unfair, since my room possesses many other joyful amenities. But these, the holy globes of light, can never be replaced. I can’t find others like them in a minute. Matter of fact, they won’t be here in a minute. They’re irreplaceable. And why? Because the fire inspector decided they were dangerous, these harmless spheres that wouldn’t hurt a fly. A fly couldn’t find its way into them. As a new student, I must innocently yet tactfully question the reasoning behind this decision. Like the tooth fairy, a woman visits my room on a weekly basis, but instead of a shiny silver coin, I am left with another warning to take down my lanterns. My unfortunate yellow piece of paper is only one in a stack of many that have scribbles of paranoid comments to move stuffed animals off of radiators, to clear the mountain of clothing that has become the floor or to remove glow-in-the-dark stars from the ceiling. Apparently star-shaped night lights have put one at risk. They say you must see it to believe it, and until one of my dorm mates collapses during a fire drill at the mercy of t-shirts stationed on the carpet, I feel that these dos and don’ts of fire safety should either be altered, or at the very least better explained. Pages 16 and 17 of The Blue Book go into great detail about what is not allowed in the dorm room, but make the reasoning no clearer to me. The accused are going to ask why. They are going to seek out resolutions. Victims like me are likely to pursue battery-operated lanterns for the future. I may have lost the battle, but I have not lost the war. Turn out the lights when you’re not in the room. Unplug energy-draining cell phone or computer chargers when not in use. Don’t light a match. But get rid of harmless paper lanterns? In the meantime, if you are reading this, please bow your head in a moment of silence, for little can be done to save my fixtures. Remember the lanterns. Remember the decorations of others that have been extinguished. Visualize this once blissful place that I call home and grant good luck to those who have not yet been told to do away with their potentially life-threatening posters. May the lanterns rest in peace, and shall the still existing features of other fabulous rooms live long and prosper. Cammy Brandfield-Harvey is a new Upper from Houston, Texas.