I must have been seven or eight at the time. We lived on a single story ranch home in Alexandria, VA. Lower middle class suburb. Small brick houses with yards.
I was taking a dump. It must have been urgent because I didn’t bring anything to read with me. After the initial relief, I was faced with the inevitable tedium that followed, like the antsy sit-through of a long division problem, wanting to get to the remainder after the first solved digits. I looked in trash bin for a left over newspaper — no, only tissues; I stared at the interlocking planks on the floor till my eyes crossed; I rifled through the nearby drawers of the vanity. Q-tips, disposable razors,… matches.
I struck a match and let it burn as far as I could tolerate. I then shook it out, wincing from the pain. I read in a book that Spiro Agnew, a mean bald-headed man, used to intimidate people by letting matches burn right to his fingers. I struck another one and tried again, counting down as the tiny flame licked its way down, edging into my fingertips. I shook it out again. My pinching fingers still pulsed from the heat. I stared at the scored, charred matchstick.
I tried again. Again the dancing flame leaped its way in toward my fingers. It seemed to shrink and leap, like the Chinese dragons at New Year’s. As it began to sting and sear, I shook it again, but instead of vanishing in a wisp, the flame leapt again like a pouncing predator. I cried aloud and shook the matchstick loose from its grip, letting it drop into the little waste bin beside me. The waste bin full of tissue paper.