Saturday, May 18, 2013

The Boy and the Burn

The date was Friday, Februrary 13, 1998. It was my dad's birthday. Him and my mother had gone out to a movie together and my oldest brother, Scott, had driven to Ahwatukee (Phoenix) to spend the weekend with his friends. We had recently moved to Glendale the summer before, so this was something he did quite often. 

I was at my friend Nicole's house. Every month her church held a dance for those between the ages of 14-17. We were teenage girls and there were boys, so of course we went. This particular dance was of great interest to me though, as there was one boy in particular that had my attention. For discretion's sake (I am still friends with his twin sister, you know), let's call him "Joe," shall we. 

I went with Nicole to her weekly church youth activities, mainly so I could see Joe. We quickly became quite fond of each other. He had kissed me just that week, so it was of the utmost importance that I attend this dance.

I did my makeup and dawned my burgundy 3/4 sleeve top. It had silver glitter butterflies on it, and Joe had once complimented it, so of course it became one of my favorites.

After I had finished getting ready, I went out to Nicole's kitchen while she finished. Her sister Britni and brother Ryan were going to be home alone that evening. Britni was not yet old enough to go to the church dances, so she got stuck babysitting. She was making a pot of macaroni and cheese for her and her brother, but quickly realized there was too much water in the pot and it was close to boiling over. 

This was where intelligence failed us both. The pot was too heavy and boiling and neither of us were able to safely lift it to the sink to empty the water out, so we carried it ladle by ladle from the stove, across the kitchen to the sink. 

I turned and heard Britni say in a calm voice, "Careful. I don't want to spill this on you." And no sooner than those words escaped her lips, we collided, boiling water splashing all over my arm.

I gripped my arm in agony, wailing, "FUCK!" so loud, I later found out neighbors three doors down heard me. Nicole came running in from her room. She panicked, unsure what to do. All I could think in that moment was that my arm was really hot and I wanted it to stop being so hot.

This is the second time intelligence escaped me. On instinct, I reached for the bucket of ice cubes in the freezer and plunged my elbow into it. Have you ever gone from a cold environment, then submerged yourself into a hot tub? You know that feeling you get when you first enter the warm water where it seems absurdly hot and prickly against your skin? It takes your body a minute to adjust to the temperature change. 

My arm did not adjust to the temperature change. That tingly feeling was more akin to a hell blaze being thrust against my skin. The burning worsened and seemed to be spreading. I jerked my arm out of the bucket of torment and my eyes grew wide when I noticed my skin was still in the bucket. Flesh was now visible on my arm.

"Ew, gross!" Nicole's brother whined. Simultaneously, all three of us girls gave him stern glares.

Unsure what to do, I rushed out of Nicole's house and to my friend Chandra's. They lived on the same street. But much to my dismay, they weren't home. I ran to my house, but no one was home there either. I had no car of my own and these were the days before every household owned cell phones. It was still cool to have a pager then. 

Finally, down the road from my house, my friend Heather and her parents were home. Her mother, God love her, calmed me. I was in hysterics, yelling, crying, panicking. I can't recall too well after all these years, but I remember screaming. I can only imagine how I looked running through the neighborhood, screaming and carrying on as I was. The neighborhood busybodies probably (officially) thought I was a lunatic, a demon child of some kind. This particular family was always concocting silly stories to paint us as horrifying children. I'm willing to bet I had given them the right ammo that day. I'm giggling at that thought right now!

Anyway, back to the story. I couldn't remember which movie theater my parents had gone to, so Heather's mother called the two near us. They were at the second, seeing a chick-flick if I remember correctly. The usher went into the theater before the movie had started and announced that they were looking for Bart and Cathy Urich, that there was an emergency, their daughter had been burned.

Brace yourselves, for this is the one moment in life that my father's heart stopped. 

I later found out my parents were seated at the back of the theater room and my dad heard the usher wrong. He heard, "Your daughter has been murdered.

My poor dad. He burst into tears right there, fled down the stairs. He was a mess, getting odd stares from people wondering why he seemed to be overreacting the way he was. It took a moment for everyone to understand he had misunderstood. Can you imagine his relief when he learned it was just a burn, not my life?

In the meantime, I had gotten in touch with my brother at his friends house. He was closest and had rushed home to get me, and we were to meet my parents at the hospital. That was the first time in my life I drove 80 MPH through the streets of Phoenix, hoping to get pulled over so I could get to the hospital faster, only to not get pulled over. (If you've ever been to Phoenix, you'd understand this. They crack down HARD on speeders and drunk drivers.)

I suffered severe second degree, minor third degree burns. I was treated with prescription strength Noxema. Yes, the stuff they gave me was just like Noxema. The nurse was a shrew too. She most certainly did not like children and she made that clear to me. She also did not enjoy treating me. She twisted my BURNED arm this way and that, telling me to stop whining every time I cried out in pain. Thankfully my mother was there to tell her to stop. Oooh, the glare that nurse gave my mom ...! He-he!

Today I have no visible scar on my arm, however I burned the nerve endings off and the skin around my elbow is darker. The most painful part of the treatment was having to flex my arm everyday so they skin would grow back loose. Blech and ouch!

As for Joe, I was devastated I did not get to see him that night. I remember thinking to myself all night how disappointed I was. I wondered if he noticed I wasn't there, if he missed me since we had "made plans" to both be there. I wondered if someone else caught his attention in my absence. When you're 15 years old, things of that nature are crucial at the time. Funny how dramatic we can be. No one else caught his attention and our little tryst continued (secretively) for quite some time. 

Funny, though, he wasn't even my happily ever after ....

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