Monday, February 22, 2010


I have a few minutes, so here is my current testimony. Here is a memory that has raised its skinny hand to share.

I am around thirteen. I have burnt myself badly on my left hand while setting fire to a photograph in our bathroom sink. I took one of my sister's lighters that she used for smoking Marlboro lights (glamorously, I thought) and lit the bent edge of it. I waved it a few times in the air, when it suddenly exploded in my hand. I then ran my already almost raw thumb and forefinger (that were grasping the photograph) under the faucet, and watched as the burnt bits of the print fell like volcanic ash into the white porcelin, then swirl down the ancient drain (our rental was not a luxury one).

As my hand throbbed in real agony, so very real compared to the pain of a teenage crush that I was feeling prior to burning the photograph - the reason I burnt the photograph, I decided I needed to devise a quick plan to explain why my hand was burnt. My sister was at work at the video store and my parents would be home soon. How does one legally burn their hand? We didn't have a fireplace, I wasn't allowed to burn candles when home alone and this was before the days when candles were scattered in interior design mode all over the house, how to explain this burn? The truth was embarrassing.

I was in love. I was in love with a boy in my class who was funny and charming and he was my best friend. I hated him. I loved him. He always had a girlfriend and I was a huge nerd. That he even spoke to me was a miracle, that we were best friends was a revelation. But he brought me pain so I decided to burn his class picture. Erase the evidence. I couldn't tell my parents that.

But, I could prepare food for myself while alone in the house. That was a recently earned privilege. And I was always burning my hands in the spots where the potholder didn't cover my flesh so there was a valid excuse. I decided to whip up a batch of slice and bake chocolate chip cookies (thank God we had a tube! Thank God it hadn't been eaten yet, even though it was bought the day before!) and claim that my hand was burned then. I knew that I couldn't say I burnt myself while baking and not have anything to show for it.

My hand really, really hurt by the time everyone arrived home. I couldn't have been home alone for an hour or two after the cathartic burning took place and in that time I felt as though I might pass out. I slathered butter on the burn but that was all I knew how to do. It helped a little. My parents were annoyed that I hurt myself but sympathetic. Plus, well...the cookies were good and they got to eat them.

I didn't feel better after burning the photo. I didn't end up feeling better long after the burn had healed (I remember it still throbbing during the "Thanks be with you" part of mass for weeks and weeks afterward). I didn't feel better for almost ten years after burning that class photo.

That's all - inarticulate as it is today. That's all I got.


oona said...

another good yarn.
why do you say you can't knit? you certainly can spin.

I'm glad that you visit my blog. I feel sheepish for not commenting on yours before. But I do visit. Your words are troubling and profound.

BOSSY said...


Katie said...

Inarticulate my ass.