Fire. Red, orange, yellow fire, dancing across the plain cellophane. Fire, itself a warning, a large red flag. Red, like a stop sign, or maybe a fire engine. Telling me to stop. Telling me it’s the wrong choice, warning me of the dangers ahead. I ignore the danger. I ignore the red signs. I step right into the fire, into its tendrils, into its embrace.
He compels me. I should be compelling him. I should be his master, a human being to a mere object. However, he seems to compel me instead, that burning, red firework between my lips, one after another. I am a slave to him. The red warning signals blast all around me, screaming at me to stop. It’s not too late. But they don’t understand the complexity of this desire. They don’t realize that I am not allowed to leave. That I am not chained down by him, but by myself. Because no matter how hard I try, I cannot snap out of the allure. I cannot leave. He entices me, entices me the way fire entices a fur trapper in the artic. The heat is seductive, so seductive. In spite of all the warnings about not getting burned, one cannot help but advance closer and closer, and the fire gets hotter and hotter and even more irresistible. Even as the flesh catches fire the pleasure does not stop.
Crack. He explodes as he hits my tongue. I wince as the familiar pain courses through my mouth, across my tongue. The flesh still throbs, a burning patch of red staining the area where he hit me. Soon I will be screaming in pain, begging for him to stop, but he won’t. Or maybe it’s me who won’t. But for now, the searing pain fades with a small sizzle and I want more.
My palate is tainted. The once tasteless flesh now simmers with the remains of him. He is over. With a mere snap of my jaw I vanquished an entire existence. He screams, a crunching, sickening sound, as he disappears forever.
I look in the bag. There’s more. He’s not over, I realize. He is never over.
It would be so simple for me to deny him. He cannot move me. He cannot move even himself. Alone, he is incapable of causing me harm. I am the one who gives him permission to harm me. I am the one who allows it to happen. Who wants it to happen.
Sometimes I think about him when we’re not together. I realize the pain he causes me. But I look forward to that pain. I yearn for it. It feels so good to hurt. To burn. To be alive. Sometimes, driving home, I race past the speed limit, frantically scrambling to be with him just a few moments sooner. The thought of it sends chills down my spine. Without him, I would be uneasy, untouched, my tongue unhurt but tingling, needing those cracking blows.
Crack! He hits me again, and this time the pain intensifies. It’s the same spot, over and over again. As he keeps hitting me, each blow brings more and more agony, more distress.
Why not another spot? I wonder. Why not an unharmed spot, one that would feel the same slap but not the same pain? Because I know, I know that only one spot can feel it. He can touch any other part of me, but none will feel it like the taste buds do.
The swishing sound of the water bottle is nearly a tangible one, making a small splashing sound as my mouth floods with the bottle’s contents. I swish the cold liquid around in my mouth, hoping for it to soothe my injuries. I read the label, perhaps to distract myself from the pain. The water merely glosses over my tongue, though, and I’m left with the burning feeling once more.
He waits for me, quietly. Very quietly. He doesn’t say a word as he watches me try to recover from the pain he carelessly inflicted upon me. He’s only waiting. Waiting to hurt me more, to hurt me harder. I know the slaps are going to be even harder next time.
Do I want to do this? I think. I don’t know if I like the pain. I hate pain. I hate the pounding, stinging, crackling, burning. I hate the marks he leaves on me. I hate him. I detest him.
And yet I love him. I revel in the hurt. I relish the burns and cuts and bruises. I feel my taste buds buzzing. I feel my whole self buzzing.
I turn and face him once more.
He looks at me, almost tauntingly, as if to say, You’re mine now, my dear.
I want to stand up. I want to tell him to stop. I want to flee.
But I can’t.
He doesn’t need this. He doesn’t need to cause me pain. But I do. He doesn’t need me, and yet I need him.
Crack! Another slap, harder this time, more loaded, more powerful, more of the strength that dusts each part of him, fiery red chili powder. I scream out in pain. Before long I am panting, catching my breath and trying to cool my burns. I suddenly feel lightheaded.
He strikes again. Crack! Tears sting my eyes as the pain peaks near my threshold.
It feels good. Can I take any more? I don’t want to fuel the fire that burns me. I don’t want to be slapped anymore. But I do. I really, really do.
So can I handle another strike? There is only one way to find out.
Crack! He hits me one more time, and I cry in pain, in hurt, in anger. Anger at him and at myself. I immediately regret my decision to take another beating. But it doesn’t even really feel like a decision I am free to make.
Finally, I realize that I am unable to take any more of this abuse. I scream at him, yell at him to stop.
And he does.
But he does not stop taunting me, with his open availability. I see the glow of the embers reflected in the clear silver.
I want more. I want more. I want just a little bit more. I can allow myself a minuscule amount.
No, I can’t.
Grabbing him and lifting his body up, I choke him, harder than I’ve ever done anything in my entire life. His neck gives in readily, crumbled and crushed by my grip. I am soon holding his crumpled neck in my hands, his body limp, hanging there as the contents inside are cut off from air, from particles, from bacterial exposure. From me.
Grabbing the pink binder clip that rests just a few inches away, I take his crumpled neck in my hands and clip him shut. Tossing his body into the snack cabinet, I am finally able to break free from his grasp.
I am still panting, still crying, and the pain on my tongue lingers. Even without the fire, the burn has somehow intensified and spread through me. It is a rough kiss, a tender embrace. No, it is more than that. Worse than that. It is a too-tight hug, the kind that crushes your bones and pushes your ribs towards your lungs but is still injected with so much love, warmth, tenderness. His slaps are a necessity to me. I need them. Yes, I made the choice to stop him from hurting me, yet a part of me still wants him to. I want him to bring me pain, bring me the sensation that harms me but also reminds me that I am alive, that he is alive, that together we can have anything. Everything.
I cry a bit over him. At least, I think I am crying over him. Maybe the wounds are getting to me. All I know is that I am lost and heartbroken. I miss him already. Not just his fiery slaps and punches, but his presence. I miss knowing that he’s always there for me, there to beat me, to torture me, in order to console me after I face hardships, heartbreaks, and disappointment. But at the same time, it feels like a liberation. I feel like a skydiver. Maybe I will live, maybe my parachute will fail me. I don’t know how I’m going to do on my own. But there is a certain thrill to not having the diving instructor’s reassuring hand by my side. Still, I wonder if I had made a grave mistake.
Maybe I can take him back?
No, I cannot. I have moved past him. I know that wanting him is an evil, that he is an evil, That his touch feels like hellfire. I want to be with him again, feel his touch, his burn. But I can’t. That’s like wanting to light myself on fire again.
Maybe some other naïve young fool will come across him in the future. Maybe she will find him, limp and harmless-looking. An inviting, blazing red. Maybe she, curious, will reach out for him, something she may always regret, or never regret. I don’t know.
I so know that he will hurt her, whoever she is. I know that he will hurt her in the same way that he hurt me. He will beat her every day, and she will cry in pain and scream in agony, but she will not be able to stop letting him do what he does best. She will frantically suck the water bottle dry, just as I used to do, but it will not help her. Nothing will help her, not even herself, because she will never be able to stay away.
I know this because I know him. I even knew him as a child. We grew up together. I know that he treats everyone the same way, hitting them, burning them, wounding them, inflicting repeated injuries upon their most vulnerable places. I know that he is still out there doing this, not just to me, but to people around the world. And yet, at the same time, he reposes calmly, without regret, confined by the mahogany painted doors of my cabinet. Confined by himself, really; unable to speak or move or know anything.
It’s funny, in a way. He is an inanimate object, who doesn’t even know who he is or who I am. And yet, he is so abhorrently violent, causing me more distress than every other traumatic experience combined.
I know it will be the same for the next girl. I am sure of it. There is no doubt in my mind that he will harm her, maybe even more than he has hurt me. Maybe she too will find herself tentatively drifting back to him every day, lusting for pain but also fearing it. Maybe.
There is a lot I do not know. But I do know one thing. Whoever this person is, she will never feel the same way about him that I do. She will never harbor such a burning passion, such an intense desire for him, as I do.
I glance back at the snack cabinet. He is in there, calling for me. I want so badly to go to him. But I know that along the way I’ll get stopped by some prison guard, whether it’s reason or logic or a knowledge of myself and what he has done to me before. I know for certain that I will not be going back to him today.
Today, at least, I am free of him.
Still, I look up at the small cabinet. The unremarkable, humble cabinet. Though made of wood, it does not burst into flames. If you didn’t know what was inside it, you would never guess it holds a fire inside. A blaze. A scorching supernova.