We watched the monks burn, one after another.
Awash in fire, they sat so still that I thought they were fake. Flames rippled off their heads like molten hair. Each explosion caught me unaware, and I’d jerk my beer can. The grainy, black-and-white crowds on screen didn’t seem scared or surprised one bit.
“Why would anybody do something like that?”
My roommate laughed. He’d found the clips online while researching for a term paper.
“They were protesting the Vietnamese regime back in the ‘60’s.”
When I stood, the room swiveled.
“Don’t go. The best one’s coming up.”
I barely made it. I retched hard. When I was done, I started packing.
After that, my paintings were all infernos or burnt-out pits of ash.
My fiancé got nervous and ended us.
I lost friends.
My father came to see me. He said, “It’s obvious you have issues. I mean, all these strange paintings. And look at you. You’re about to explode.”
That was the point, of course.
I’d led a privileged life, with slick cars and cashmere socks.
I’d had so much, but nothing I cared about.
That night I took a gas can with me. I sat in the middle of the outdoor mall, ready to make myself explode. But first I tried to tell them.
I’d made a sign denouncing war. I gripped the wood handle and squeezed till my eyes bled.
People passed by. Some giggled, some tossed coins.
It took flames to get their attention.