No, this is not a reference to the Hunger Games trilogy. This post is about something that happened to me a couple of years ago. But just because the story’s a bit dated doesn’t make it unworthy of being discussed in the present.
It was mid-December, so the days were getting progressively shorter. And with the irksome tilt of the planet, I was unhappy to find that I was spending larger portions of my days in the darkness. But not one to be bested by the elements, I responded by ramping up my energy consumption. I found myself having to turn on all of the lights at 5:00 PM just to see the print on the books in front of me. And ah! It was so cold. Surely turning up the thermostat by a couple of degrees wouldn’t hurt anyone? Could it?
The monstrous electricity bill we received at the end of the month gave us the answer with ringing finality: Yes. Yes it could. And we would do well to mind it and do something about it.
Thus, in her efforts to reduce slightly our enormous electricity expenditure, my mother suggested that we make greater use of the most prehistoric form of light: Fire. In the form of little scented candles to be exact.
I cringed at the label on the side of candles: Cherry. I could only imagine that our house would soon be filled with the warm fumes of thick cherry cough medicine. But my mother was resolute. The candles would be lit. And I would assist her in lighting them.
I responded to the task uneasily, for this was my first time applying fire to a dormant wick. Now, don’t make fun. My parents and I had a very real sense both of fire’s immense utility and capacity for destruction. Apparently, my mum believed that the time had come for me to fully realize fire’s power by placing a gas lighter in my open hand.
I began by lighting the first candle with exaggerated caution, slowly igniting the flame at the end of the metal tube before touching it to the wick.
Bursting with potential (energy, hehe get it?), the slender, black wick quickly caught flame. I watched in wonder as the little orange triangle pulsed with warmth and light, wavering slightly in the dark. It’s not like it was the first time I had ever seen fire. I’d blown out dozens of birthday candles in the past. But this was different. This was the first time I had ever produced the flame.
I had now held the secret to man’s greatness in my right hand: Fire! Glorious fire! Incredible source of warmth! Of light! Of POWER.
Drunk with a sense of victory, I brought the little candle closer to my face, not noticing the thick strand of hair that had come undone from my ponytail.
At once, I saw a beautiful trail of burning, bright orange flames ascend near the side of my face. Shocked into dumbness for several seconds, I watched mouth agape at the dazzling spectacle. What was this amazing phenomenon? A rare chemical reaction of sorts? I would have to document this-this wondrous, fascinating, bright, alluring, and hot, hot, HOT, HOT!!
My love for the flames dulled considerably and quickly as I noticed the searing heat that was threatening to consume my face. Almost out of no where, my right hand shot up and beat the side of my face several times, effectively extinguishing the flames.
Dizzied from the blows and the heat, I shook my head in disbelief before realizing that my mother had been watching me the whole time. We stared at each other for a couple of seconds in shocked silence.
Still unable to comprehend what had just occurred, I ran to the nearest mirror to see that half of the loose strand of hair had thinned and had become a rusty brown. It appeared to be singed. Singed! The strong scent of burnt hair penetrated my nostrils, leaving no room for doubt.
I had just set my hair on fire.