From the desk in my home office I have a clean line to the bathroom. I know: location, location, location. It’s pretty awesome.
It was from my desk that I first noticed the orange glow emitting from the restroom. It danced and it swayed with its bright amber shadow and it moved like a memory as it crept towards the door.
There is a candle in the bathroom. It had been lit only moments before as a gesture of common courtesy to my fellow man. It was lit and then left unattended, remembered but for the fragrance of autumn that lingered from it and the flicker of light that stayed the corner of my eye.
The boys are used to it. They don’t bother the flame and therefore the flame doesn’t bother them. I have instilled within them a fear to curb their wonder. Or so I thought.
I sat at my desk sipping from a glass packed with too much ice and typing something that must have seemed important at the time. I sat there as the comfort found in a constant waver of candlelight became staggered and chaotic and noticeably less comforting. I listened as my call went unanswered.
Somewhere in a moment it clicks. Possibilities are entertained. Scenarios are played out. Thoughts come to mind and they are for the worse. It happens in but a moment, but a moment is all that it needs.
I rushed into the bathroom to my find my son standing above the fire, a flame of tissue in his hand and a look of terror so frozen upon his face that even the heat against his body could not make it melt. I knocked the torch from his hand and moved him through the doorway. The flames were high, but luckily they were contained within the metal of the wastebasket and I was able to control them fully with several pitchers of water poured from a bathtub toy- a pelican with a handle and, luckily, a wide, deep beak.
Then there were questions and explanations, tears and hugs and a demanding need for tissue, despite it being crisp and frail. We stood together, our family, in a bathroom filled with smoke like steam and a scared, sick boy explaining how cold it had been a lifetime ago, that moment he had decided that his tissue paper could stand to be just a little bit warmer.