Playing with Fire

And all of a sudden, it was dark.

We had been in the middle of yet another one of our fights, at each other’s throats, attempting to drown out the other with our screams.

When the lights went out, we both went quiet.  It was as if life had had enough, and hit the pause button.  It was saying, “Here, take a breather, both of you.”

We stayed calm, momentarily frozen where we stood.  I let the dark settle in as my eyes adjusted.  This was nothing new; the power tends to go out every so often in our part of the city, especially when there’s too much energy being exerted.

As my sight adjusted, I was able to focus on the figure that was her.  Her actions were slow, cautious with limited vision.  I could hear her movements as she shuffled through a cabinet.  When she had found what she was looking for, she called out to me.  I responded, guiding her back to my side.  She bent down and positioned herself next to where I had been sitting.

We sat on the floor, next to a coffee table.  On the table, she placed the items she’d been searching for in the cabinet.

A candlestick and a box of matches.

I took the box in hand, opened it, and pulled out a single match.

I’ve always loved blackouts.  Maybe it’s the fact that it’s easier to hide our vulnerability in the darkness, speaking truths into eyes you can’t see judging you.  You find yourself in a different reality, where the world stops just long enough for you to tell stories that never had a voice in the light.  Or maybe it’s my fascination with fire?

Strike the match and immediately, but briefly, our sight is paralyzed by this blinding light as our eyes struggle to compensate with the sudden illumination.  Because our eyes had taken time to adjust to the darkened state, we cannot help but fixate on and engross ourselves in this feeling of newness that spurs on our excitement.

At the same time, the sound of the friction felt between the match and the strike strip imposes its will onto our sense of sound, perking up our ears with the sudden soft scream.  It is almost as if igniting the flame releases a quick, passionate cry.  Loud, as it breaks the silence, but eases back slowly to a soundless state.

Then, there’s the scent.  I don’t smoke, but there is something about the smell of matches that is completely intoxicating.  As if the fragrance emitted from the flame lingers as long as possible, hesitant to leave.  It doesn’t last too long, but there’s something about that smell of sulfur, that smell needing to be wafted, that smell that fills a room immediately albeit momentarily.

The light remains, but not for long as the flame begins its consuming descent.  The fire burns quickly, and before I know it, my fingers are barely holding onto the match.  I feel the heat, hotter and hotter, and eventually, it becomes unbearable as it burns my fingers to release my grasp.  I let go, dropping the match, as it fizzles out.

We’re back in the shadows.

I light another match, and again, am instantly captivated.  But before I can feel the sting of the fire a second time, I light the candle.

The match burns out.

But this time, we aren’t sitting in the darkness.  Here, we sit within a room lit up by a single flame.  It is sturdy in its base, and although it flickers from time to time, it remains unhindered through the night.  It is unscented, it doesn’t have that crackle, that pop to it, nor does it have that immediate illuminating brilliance.

What it is, however, is constant and withstanding.  It seeks no attention, but serves its purpose without so much as a bitterness that lingers in its abrupt departure.

In that moment then, I noticed my hand.  She grasped it tightly, caressing where the match had burned my fingers.  She hoped to soothe the pain of the past, and in the moment, she did.  The candle provided just enough light for me to focus in on her.  No distractions, no worries, no pressure.  Just her.

And then, suddenly and without warning, the lights returned.  We looked around at everything now visible.  It was back to what we had left.  The surroundings returned, as did the tension between us.  It was back to reality and the rest of the world, away from just the two of us.

I hesitated.

She stood, letting go of my hand.

I got up reluctantly, and blew out the candle.

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