I once burned my thumb almost clean to the bone, while burning a photograph of someone I loved. He didn’t love me, which was why fire was needed to erase him. I remember a colorful bubbling heat as the Polaroid burned and flames curled over flesh. I ran to the sink. I turned on the tap. I let the remnants of the Polaroid swirl down the sink (bits of black, bits of purple). My hand didn’t burn until clear, cold water licked the wound. I let the water run for a few minutes, blue glow coming from the television in the living room, cheap linoleum beneath my bare feet. My parents were due to arrive home, so I bolted through the refrigerator, looked for the ingredients to make a batch of butterscotch brownies, and mixed the batter with the hand that wasn’t coursing with white-hot pain. When my parents came home from their night out there were brownies on the table and a doleful-eyed daughter waiting for them, complete with a sob story about a faulty potholder and a too hot pan.
The next day, Sunday, brought me and my red, throbbing thumb to mass. I asked God for forgiveness, anxious, dreading the “Peace Be With You” when I’d have to shake hands with strangers. The hurt hand was my right one, the one I wrote with, shook hands with, put on makeup with. I also remember an itchy white wool turtleneck, the canned-heat of the sanctuary, the communion wafer stuck to the roof of my mouth.
I still hate to bake.