The Burning Bedroom

Fire!
With upward licks along the wall, she did that dirty dance she was known for, melting the turquoise paint like saltwater taffy in Miami sun. I stood between the two twin beds, watching the flames, eyes wide, unable to move, not wanting to move.
I felt its warmth, I saw the red and yellow flames flick its hot tongue at me, teasing me, while triple-dog-daring me to move. She was an evil serpent.
I knew I had started this fire. I knew I had to put it out. I was frozen.

Why did I throw the match into the trash?

Just to think—this all started with one match.

***

In sixth grade, I started developing my problem.  Maybe it was there before, but this is my earliest remembrance.

I recall joking with a few friends, as we played outside, “If you step on a crack, you break your mother’s back”. And, we’d avoid all the cracks on the concrete or tiled floors. It was a funny game—something to keep West Virginia kids (pre-internet) entertained. I don’t remember the exact reason, but oddly, I was upset with my mom and I started jumping up and down on one of the sidewalk cracks. My friends and I laughed and thought nothing of it. Why should we? After all, it was only a game. And, to be honest, I’m sure everyone started stepping on cracks too—a way to pretend we were getting our mothers back as a punishment from punishing us for something we did.

The next day, by sheer coincidence, mom fell on a slippery floor and hurt herself badly. And, this is how it started—the obsessive compulsiveness. Even though I knew in the back of my head I didn’t hurt her, something went awry at that moment. Something malfunctioned in my head, as if the nuts and bolts became loose. I would never pinpoint or be able to fix it

It’s hard to understand the psychology of individuals. We’re all different. Especially because some people may have the same conditions, but the deep-rooted reason for it is different. Why are people promiscuous? Why do people smoke 2 packs of cigarettes a day? Why do people over-eat? Why are some people prone to drug and alcohol abuse? It’s easy to say, “Let me stop doing A, B, C, or D”, just like it’s easy for one to say, “I’m going to stop smoking”.  It’s all easier said than done. The fact that one does this in secret and fully aware of their OCD makes it even more damning to the individual, yet makes it easier to control due to the knowledge, itself. This is similar to an alcoholic who says, “I’m an alcoholic… now what steps should I take to quit drinking?” Unless you simply hide your secret in shame until it becomes the death of you.  And, when it comes down to it, some of us are predisposed with what I’ll refer to as “addictive” genes. This is why I told myself early in age I’d never do any drug—I’m a classic addict. I truly believe that knowing that fact is what makes me a better person. I would definitely be the one who’d steal from his parents or friends just for a quick fix of crack. And, knowing that one little fact is what gave me the courage to “Just say no” and never try drugs. I’m an addict without having had tried any drugs. The problem is that most individuals don’t understand and are not analytical of their bodies and the negative cravings. Or, simply, they know but don’t fight the negative ramifications.

But beyond this, I still had my own things causing fascination, obsession. One of which was fire.

There were many small incidences that led up to the big day the summer I was going to 9th grade. I should have seen it coming from the start when I was trying to burn pennies, watching the copper melt, splashing on concrete, as I held the remaining penny piece with tongs. I should have stopped there, but I didn’t.

* * *

With upward licks along the wall, she did that dirty dance she was known for, melting the turquoise paint like saltwater taffy in Miami sun. I stood between the two twin beds, watching the flames, eyes wide, unable to move, not wanting to move.

I felt its warmth; I saw the red and yellow flames flick its hot tongue at me, teasing me, while triple-dog-daring me to move. She was an evil serpent.
I knew I had started this fire. I knew I had to put it out. I was frozen.

Why did I throw the match into the trash? Why did I want to see it burn?

Just to think—this all started with one match.
Moments before this, I stood in my bedroom, looking at the match, striking the match, and watching it burn.  I don’t recall WHAT I wanted to burn, or if I had planned to burn anything at all—but all that is irrelevant. I watched the flame on the match burn quickly to my fingertips. As soon as I felt it burn my fingers, I blew at it, and flicked it into a wastebasket, between my two beds. However, before I could move, the basket went up into flames, connecting itself to the wall.

I didn’t blow out the fire like I thought!

Quickly I moved the two beds away from the wall, making sure the flame didn’t connect itself to the beds, then ran into the bathroom linen closet where I knew two buckets were located. Turned on the bathtub water and filled one, leaving the faucet running with the second bucket catching the water. I ran, fast. Faster! Fastest! Throwing the entire bucket of water onto the walls, not caring what got wet, but knowing I had to stop the fire from devouring the entire wall, the room, and the house! Dear God, The House!

After about five or six buckets of water, the fire was out. The fire detectors rang, piercing my ears and the entire house was filled with smoke, and my bedroom was wet and charred.  I opened all the doors and windows in the house to get rid of the smell of smoke. But I knew I’d never get the rest of the smell out. I had to cover it up somehow. I KNEW I’d be in trouble if anyone found out. And, I still had about 5 hours before my parents would get home from work.

With comforters, clothes, and towels, I sopped up the water from the floor and dried the walls. Then I placed all of the materials into the washing machine. Luckily, a month before, I had just painted my bedroom with a gallon of turquoise paint. I had some left over and stored it in the basement. I grabbed that, and repainted my wall. The paint seemed to mask the smell of smoke a bit—but not by much. I was definitely going to get caught. I put the charred wastebasket and its contents into a trash bag and hid it in my closet.

I went into the kitchen and mixed some batter and some oatmeal, making a batch of oatmeal cookies. I added an entire bottle of peppermint extract and placed them into the oven, and turned it to 450 degrees. And waited. And waited. And waited. I smelled them burning. The peppermint scent was strong and covered up the smell of burned paper. I took them out of the oven and they were hard and black. I left them on the counter.

I closed the windows, kept the backdoor open, and transferred the clothes from the washer to the dryer and waited. I had an hour left to wait for my parents to come home. No longer could I smell the smoke from the fire I created. It was overwhelmed by the scent of the burned cookies and peppermint.

The buzzer on the dryer went off. The clothes and other items were dry. But before I could get them, I heard the doorknob to the front door jiggle. It was Dad. He was always home first.

The door opened and I stood there. Immediately his face twisted and his nose curled up.

“Smells good, doesn’t it?” I laughed nervously.

“Hell no!” he remarked, looking around, trying to figure out what it was.

I laughed again, “I burned cookies in the oven. The WHOLE house smells like peppermint.” His eyes squinted from the peppermint fumes.

“Do you have the backdoor open?” He questioned, looking onto the counter at the burned cookies.

“Yeah.”

“Let’s open this door, too. And, throw away those cookies. It’s not like you can eat them”

I never played with fire again. Nor would anyone ever learn about that day.

 

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About Stephen Earley Jordan II

Author of "Beyond Bougie", "Cold, Black, and Hungry" and many other books. www.StephenEarleyJordan.com
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One Response to The Burning Bedroom

  1. Drew says:

    Well, no one learned till NOW 😉
    Interesting.

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