I seem to have a unique relationship with fire.
I burn water.
I burn toast.
I burn food.
I have exploded an oven in my face the night before my opening as the lead in an Off Broadway play.
I often leave candles burning.
I manage to set off fire alarms.
I often forget to turn off the oven and the stove.
There have been more than a few steaks burning in flaming infernos.
I love candles and looking into the flame for the little man.
I don’t know why but none of this disturbs me. Perhaps Zarathustra is blessing me with the Fires of Purification.
When I was 9 I blew up an oven in my face looking for the match while the gas was on. It was a Saturday morning in East Rochester, New York. My parents slept in on Saturday morning, trusting that I was happily listening to my special children’s programs on weekend radio, attended always by my beloved parakeet “Keepie,” with my delicious can of cold spinach for breakfast. I adored my parents and on this morning I thought it would be romantic to cook something for them as a surprise breakfast in bed. I cannot remember what it was I wanted to make for them, but it required an oven. I remember seeing my mother turn on the oven, but couldn’t remember if the gas went on first and then the match, or light the match and turn on the gas. It seemed more sensible to turn on the gas and light the match. Less awkward. So I did. I turned it on and looked for the matches. I found them, lit one, and BOOM. A searing sharp warmth engulfed my face. Then it was over and I was frozen for a moment while taking quick account that this was serious, and considering whether or not my parents had heard the boom. They had not. I was not in pain. I went to the bathroom mirror and saw that I was in some trouble. My front hair was grey and singed, my eyebrows were grey and singed to the root. My eyelashes were but a fluff of grey, otherwise I was remarkably unharmed, just very pink and warm. I considered my options, and went for the scissors. I cut my front hair carefully, removing the evidence. I cut my eyebrows as close to my skin as I could, and cut my eyelashes to my lid. For some reason obscure to me now, I thought I looked just fine and I had escaped detection. I looked like a plucked chicken.
It is odd and perhaps revealing that until my parents were sitting next to me in the car later that morning, that my mother noticed, heartily screamed and asked, “What have you done to yourself!”