It was a ritual, burning what was done to me. I watched the flames eat the lace elastic, melting it so it fell in drops and splattered the concrete, molten black drops of tar. That fire burned my rage, my guilt, my grief, my shame, my regret. It made my blood alive, awakened it from a brownish-red stain to a boiling, bubbling black oil. Fiery oil that coated my lungs and eyes and insides. My blood frothed and seethed, in the veins beneath my skin and the veins of the cheap synthetic lace. It consumed the fabric like a lizard, snapping up toward my face, then curling in on itself, fusing to the pavement, and hardening into black twisted spikes of disfigured material. I breathed in that acrid smoke, a smell I’d been previously unfamiliar with. It’s on my fingers and face and sleeves now, and I want it to stay there. I want that smell to provoke people to ask me why – I want them to know that I burned him. Burned his fingers and his nails. Burned what he did not ask, burned him because he did not stop.
I’ve always had a fascination with fire. When I was young, my father would take us camping. My brothers and I would collect dry wood to pile and set alight. I would sit and stare into the fire for hours, until the ash stung my eyes and they started to water. I created cities within the burning logs. I imagined the tiny people who lived among the embers, building their homes in the smoldering sticks. When one would snap off and fall into the ashes below, sending sparks into the air, they would integrate it into the city’s architecture. The hotter the fire grew, the more they thrived. I wanted to join them.
I watched that fire until the flames had nothing left to consume and extinguished themselves. I rubbed the remains into the concrete with the sole of my boot. Then I stood up, lit a joint, and breathed in a different kind of smoke. I walked away, back to the city I’d be leaving soon, the city that had once felt very safe. No one would know what had happened here.