Who Hasn’t Lit Their Face on Fire?
When I was 15 I ran off to Hawaii. It was the farthest away I could get without a passport, which there was no way of attaining without parental consent. I had forged paper work saying I was emancipated after working extremely odd jobs (the kind reserved for people who were not legal members of the work force) until I had money for a ticket. No one can get emancipated in Washington at 15 but by the time anyone noticed I was no longer on the continent.
I came back sooner then I expected. Too many warplanes, too little walking room and an important wedding all collaborated to get me home.
I had been home for maybe two days when I went up to a party to meet some friends who were doing a fire show. A couple of them juggled flaming pins and one of them spun poi (though none with the expertise I had seen toddlers have on Oahu) and I was looking forward to breathing fireballs.
I had learned years before from someone who had me practice plenty with water until the mist I let loose from pursed lips was as tall as me and twice as wide. He drilled into me that I was never ever not never under any circumstances to be tempted by white gas. White gas burned hot and bright and big, it took less skill then lamp oil but people paid for it in skin. It was cheaters gas. It was dangerous.
That evening I arrived to find everyone preparing to put on a show for the birthday party that was spilling out of every window and door of the one story house on the residential eastside of Olympia.
People were happy to see me. It was my favorite kind of attention, the kind you get when you come back from somewhere. I liked it as much as I liked the attention I got when I left. In between arriving and leaving there never seemed to be enough attention to satisfy me.
There was just one small problem, no lamp oil. The spinners and jugglers and staff tossers were all using white gas. I held to my standards for about five minutes (roughly two beers). It was my big night home. I could not resist.
My first set was fine, more than fine. Huge. Beautiful. I lit up the entire crowd that had formed a half moon around the performers in the front yard.
My second set, that was just fine too. Three pristine fireballs, long and luscious, sustained longer than seemed possible. I liked this.
Just before I went up for my last round I wetted my hair. It was a whim. I had never wet my hair before. I blew one then two then three. The third was the largest breathe of fire to ever come from my body, it was glorious. When it was done I sputtered the last of the gas in my mouth onto the tiny flame at the end of my stick.
Just then the wind changed, the flame came back at me just a hair. A hair was enough to ignite the gas that had dripped down my chin, onto my neck and around the back of my neck as it was arched toward the sky. I lit up like a dry match, all but my hair. Fortunately my wet hair kept my entire head from catching, though the pattern of the gas gave the illusion that my whole head was on fire.
Someone ran up and patted me out but I relit as soon as they pulled the towel away. This happened twice more before they finally smothered the stubborn flames on my face and neck.
I looked at a very startled crowd through smoking eyelashes and began to laugh. “Don’t worry folks it’s all part of the show! Johnny…” I pointed at a juggler who rushed in to ease the mind of the troubled partygoers while I quietly took myself to the bathroom.
I got inside and started to cry. The burns were not pleasant and my buzz was gone. People started coming to see me one by one. Someone bought Ibuprofen, which I took. Normally I was a self-righteous idiot who would drink as much cheap beer as I could find but would chastise people for taking any western medicine. Another person came in very worried and asked me what I needed. I told him aloe and he came back with a case of aloe gel a half hour later. I don’t know what store he could have gone to in the middle of the night for that but he had.
I kept drinking until I was well enough to leave the bathroom and then I partied hard. Dancing, drinking, so much attention! Take it from me, lighting your head on fire right after getting back from a trip really does the trick. People could not get enough of me and I loved it.
In the following days I was given a fancy colloidal silver prescription lotion from someone who had made a similar mistake the year before. That might be why none of the gruesome scabs that peeled off my face left significant scars. I also got to make up a lot of wonderful stories about what tragic fate had befallen me on my adventure to everyone who had not seen me since I had been back, and had not heard the rumor that I set my head on fire.
I wore a large hat and a bandana in the sun and I enjoyed being home, when my face was healed and people had gotten too used to seeing me, I made ready to leave again….
Posted on June 19, 2014, in adolescence, blessings, divine intervention, friends, luck, travel, true stories and tagged accidents, breathing fire, runningaway. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.