October 18, 2010

Boy on Fire

Being Presbyterian while attending a Presbyterian college had its perks. When I was a freshman member of the Presbyterian student group, I was invited to have dinner with the president of the college. My friend and I excitedly walked over to the fellowship hall, eager to make a good impression on our leader. We had a small student group, so we were looking forward to some quality schmoozing with him.

Imagine our disappointment when we walked in and saw that a bunch of adults, church elders mostly, had been invited.

Well, elders were actually pretty fun. Soon, my friend Meagan and I were chatting it up and entertaining some old ladies.

Then came time to get our food. It was buffet style, so we all got our paper plates, plastic silverware and napkins, and began making our way down the line. Meagan and I hung back to let the elders go first. (That last sentence sounds like something straight out of Avatar, by the way.)When it was my turn, I put the napkin under my plate and the plate in my hand, freeing up the other hand for ladling and serving.

Just as I was slopping some gravy onto my food, I noticed the plate was rapidly getting hotter and hotter. I thought it was from the warm food. Little did I know I was holding my plate directly over an open flame from a candle that was strategically hidden amongst the dishes
by some sadist, most likely.

Puzzled by this uncomfortable sensation, I looked down at the plate, wondering how the food was heating up so fast. That's when my plate, hand, and arm went like this:

When I saw the flames licking the side of the plate and traveling up my arm, I became startled by this vision of hell on earth and immediately flung the contents of the gravy ladle across the buffet line. Then I began waving my plate wildly in the air to try to put out the flames. Remarkably, because I was in the back of the line and managed to stay relatively quiet throughout the ordeal by biting the crap out of my lip, no one but Meagan really seemed to notice. It must have looked something like this:

Finally, Meagan beat out the flames with her sweater while I shook the charred napkin loose from my searing flesh. Just as its burnt remains fluttered to the ground, the president addressed the crowd.

I shoved my hand in a vase of flowers as Meagan and I shook our heads emphatically and smiled. I wanted to say "Yes, it's me, and I am in so much pain that I am praying for death," but I decided to keep my mouth shut.

That evening, I placed a call to the nurse on duty in the health center. "Is any part of your hand black or dead?" she inquired. When I said no, there were only exploding blisters and searing red marks all over it with stabbing pain, she said, "Oh, in that case, just call whoever in the morning."

I had to sleep with my hand in a bowl of water. It was awful.

But then again, who hasn't caught on fire at a dinner party at some point, right?