Sin and Cinders: Connection Across the Fire Pit
Courage is relative. And at the firewalk, a few days ago, standing next to blazing hot coals with chilly bare feet, I was only distantly related to it at best.
Elderly women walked across the coals with grace and impunity, tossing in my direction only the slightest hint of a sneer that I’m sure no one else could see. Little boys with thick glasses and beanie caps skipped across the hellfire like it was beach sand, picking their noses and sucking on Tootsie Pops.
OK, that last part was a lie. There are no little kids in The Village. I’m guessing that none of them survive their first all-nighter on the beach.
OK, that last part also was a lie. There aren’t any kids in The Village because everyone is too busy ingesting chemicals that mess up their reproductive systems to actually think about raising families. Besides, I think children would violate the tacit agreement that nothing should happen to dampen the party.
OK, that last part was about right. But none of this jabbering can mask the humiliation I felt standing at the edge of Dante’s Darkest Pit of Hell, frozen with fear and the certainty that I would die a horrible death if I so much as thought about trying to walk across those coals, even though everyone else in The Village seemed able to tramp across the coals like they were lemon meringue.
And my Inner Voice — you know, the one that made it clear that only the hallucinogensia would dare to walk barefoot on the same coals that were curling the little hairs on my hands even though I was still six feet away — that Inner Voice began to shore up its position with arguments of logic.
“What if,” said the Inner Voice, in what I must say was a rather snotty tone, “what if two people walk at once, and they meet in the middle of the circle? There they are, standing stock still on blazing hot chunks of fire, each gesturing for the other to please continue whenever convenient. How long do you think they’d last before they vanished into intertwining wisps of smoke?”
The Voice had a point. I wasn’t sure about the etiquette regarding chance encounters in the midst of life-threatening rings of fire. There’s probably a manual about that somewhere, but the odds were good that Maple had used it as tinder to get the bonfire going.
The Voice had another point. “What if these other people are more deserving than you are?” it asked. “What if they are more pure of spirit, more believing, more in tune with the powers of the Earth than you are — you small-town, suburban product of middle-class America, you?”
I was about to offer at least a feeble argument in my own defense when suddenly, nothing else mattered. The fire, flickering blue among the magenta coals — didn’t matter. The chanting spectators, most of whom had already walked, some of them several times — didn’t matter. The turdy little comments of my Inner Voice, which was acting like some underpaid English professor springing a pop quiz on a miserable class — didn’t matter. Suddenly, nothing else mattered at all.
Because across the firepit, locked onto me like a python, were Eliza’s eyes.
I’m sure the rest of her was there, too. But the darkness of the night conspired with the intensity of her stare to offer me nothing but her eyes. As deep green as the North Atlantic. As fiery as the most passionate volcano. And staring right at me. Into me. Upon me.
And so I walked.
At no point did I decide to walk. I never consciously rejected the viewpoints offered by the ever-helpful Inner Voice. I never willed my legs to move. I never placed my blazing infatuation for Eliza ahead of my fear of the blazing coals. My mind was not involved in the lunacy that allowed me to walk on hot coals, and it should not be held responsible for any lingering negative effects.
I just walked.
My legs moved. And my feet, not entirely in position to argue, went along and tried to pretend that it was their idea. And the next thing I knew — because I have no memory of stepping from the cool sand onto the scorching coals — I was almost halfway across the firepit.
And the whole time, I was staring into Eliza’s eyes. And she was staring into mine. It was her eyes, the life and passion and desire of her eyes, that pulled me across the pit. I saw nothing else. I thought of nothing else. I just walked, staring into her eyes.
Until about halfway across the pit — when I suddenly realized that I might be sacrificing my locomotion in exchange for a glance from a really sexy woman. At that moment, I looked down and saw my own feet atop the glowing, glowering coals.
Bad idea. Back to Eliza’s eyes.
Much better. Eyes, good. Feet on coals, bad. Got it.
The coals did not burn my feet. They didn’t even feel hot. And I’m pleased to report that I encountered no one in the middle of this charming little immolation station. I just walked on across, stepping onto the chilly sand with relief and an overpowering sense of love and devotion for Eliza.
She turned to me, smiling.
The endorphins coursing through my brain made me giddy, and I wiggled my toes in the deliciously safe sand. No charred skin. No ashes. No stench of burning flesh. Just cool sand between my toes and the beauty of Eliza filling my gaze.
I tried to think of something incredible to say, some way to commemorate this moment with the sort of line that screenwriters put at the ends of their favorite movie scripts. But Eliza spoke first.
“Hey,” she said. “Have you seen Bo around?”
— Donovan Graham, “The Shadowless Writer”
Comment — Orson Van Dyke: Most scientists theorize that firewalking is possible because the sweat on the bottom of your feet evaporates at a rapid rate while you walk, dissipating the heat from the coals.
Comment — SunTanDude: No way, man. Nobody’s feet gush with that much sweat. It’s got to be auras and life-fields, man, cause nothing else explains it.
Comment — PeaceNick: 2 cool, Van!!! 2 cool!!!
Comment—WomynFire982: you mean you actually walked across the coals? if i were your inner voice, i’d quit and try to find a rational employer.
Comment — Gemstone: I’m just glad you’re OK. I’m going to guess that Eliza’s reaction hurt more than the coals.
Comment — Anaconda6645: You should watch your feet carefully for the next several days. Deep-tissue injuries sometimes take a while to surface, and you want to be ready to take some pictures of your feet if any discoloration happens. You’ll have an easier time suing if you have photographic evidence.
Read previous blog entries in the Island Wars story by clicking here.