I’ve got an impulse. It’s real bad. And it’s getting worse. I don’t want to die. I just want to burn for a little to show that I can. I imagine flames, being engulfed in them, me sitting down in my small school chair.
I want people everywhere to watch me. I want my teacher to look at me and get lost in my hot orange glow. I want my classmates to bear witness. I want everyone to. I want them to see me burn and I want them to see me talk. I want to talk to them—on fire.
I want my burning mouth to open up like there is nothing wrong with what is going on in the world, the room, with me. I want my words to come out crackling, like they’re consuming the very air we breathe.
It’s not a protest. There’s monks for that. I just want to burn for forty-five minutes. One class period. And my friend Jimmy says he’ll help me.
He says he can’t make it so I’ll burn for a full forty-five minutes, but maybe forty seconds. That should give me enough time to walk into class, sit down, and say—I’m ready to learn.
We layer me up in the bathroom, using clothes drenched in cold water. It’s crucial that these go on first, Jimmy tells me. I shiver and choke and find it hard to breathe. The cold is something I hate. It slows down the heart, making it hurt.
I just want to warm the world.
The last two layers Jimmy helps me with are as crisp as an autumn leaf. The sweatshirt reeks of gasoline and Jimmy explains how he soaked it and let it dry for a week.
Good, I say.
Outside the door to our classroom, Jimmy takes out the lighter and makes sure I’m covered from head to toe one more time. Only the bottom half of my face is left to the elements, so I can say what I have to say. He sparks the lighter as a test. That quick flash reminds me of the importance of being seen.
Then it’s time for me to open the door, and I do, and I burn.
I burn and I hear the words—they sound just like I thought they would—like crackling flame consuming everything I have to say to the world.
Christopher David DiCicco loves his wife and children, and sometimes writing short stories, which he does in the attic of his Canal Street home, in ever-happening Yardley, Pennsylvania. His work has appeared in Nib Magazine‘s Flash Friday feature, the online journals Intellectual Refuge and Sundog Lit, and is forthcoming in The Cossack Review. You can follow him on twitter @ChrisDiCicco or visit him at www.cddicicco.com