Tonight I listened to people talk about fire–an escape from fire, an attempted suicide by fire, art made with fire. A few weeks ago, my mother-in-law’s church was set on fire. I learned that over 80% of arsonists are men and that most kids who play with fire are boys.
In the eighth grade I would stick crayons and pencils into the space heater to watch them melt or scar. I hid them in a metal box in my sock drawer. That was when I lived with my mother. When I lived with my father I placed crayons and paper in a pitcher and set them on fire in my room. The pitcher was plastic. A hole opened up on the side. Flames shot out. I rushed to the bathroom and threw it in the tub. Then I had to clean the mess up before my dad got home. I buried the pitcher in the field next door at ten o-clock at night. I was in the ninth grade. Sometime later my dad asked me if I had seen the yellow pitcher. “No,” I said. “Not for a while.”
I was in the tenth grade living with my dad when I started my period. Until I got the courage to tell my dad I would empty the carton the tampons came in and burn the box in the fireplace. I’d then sweep up the ashes and dump them into the bottom of the outdoor garbage can. I burned a Cosmopolitan magazine that way too.
When I was very little, we had to burn our trash. I remember peering over the side of the stone wall my dad built around the pit. Bits of paper and sparks flew into the air. Eventually we got trash service and the pit disappeared. A pool is there now.
In 7th grade I knew these sisters whose house had burned down. The younger sister had been home at the time and her skin twisted up from her legs to her face. She was a tough girl. She and her sister got into fights more days than they didn’t.
Did Kafka want his manuscripts burned when he died? Or was that Nabokov? How many writers condemn words to the flame? I burned all the poems I wrote in high school. They did need to be disposed of, but they didn’t deserve the drama.
Have you…would you ever burn your writing? Do you have some secret stash or unfinished work you’d like to know that no one will see after you die? After my mother died, I found a novel she’d been writing. I keep it in a metal box and wonder what to do with it.