One Match

I started the fire. But it was not for you, Viv. Everyone assumed you planned it so that you could get the insurance money, but it was really for me. You benefited financially, of course, but I got the bigger reward.

I’ve had this knot in my chest since I was a teenager. Tension. An ache that wouldn’t go away and the older I got, the more I focused on it. It didn’t necessarily grow or feel worse in a way that warranted seeing a doctor. I just couldn’t get it out of my head and it reached the point where I couldn’t tell the difference between the physical sensation versus the feelings I was experiencing. The thoughts, the anxieties and the knot: it was one and the same.

I needed a release from this burden. I was trapped by the tangle of worry, stress and fear and I constantly grabbed at my chest as if I could somehow stop it with my hands. No amount of willpower or desperate clutching helped. I was haunted. I’d even say I was stalked. Stalked by a sensation I couldn’t control, that triggered thoughts I couldn’t drive out of my head. I had to do something drastic because I was a desperate man, Viv.

You’d told me so much about the store burying you in debt, but it was as simple as finding a matchbook from that dump motel we stayed at in college. The Pines. I waited for you to close up and then I used that key you probably forgot that I had to get in. I found the breaker box and I taped a lit match to it and walked away.

The unbelievable part for me was that I was calm and collected as I did it. Once I got back in my car and started to see the smoke and flames, I felt relieved and then a wash of warmth engulfed me. Joy like I’d never thought possible. I looked in the rearview mirror as I pulled away from the fire and I couldn’t believe the smile on my face. I didn’t recognize that face. The tension and the anxiety-the knot-no longer gripped me and I was finally able to experience feelings that I realized I had never allowed myself to-for the very first time. I got home and I was so relaxed that I slept through night for the first time in twenty years.

© 2022 Jeff E. Brown. All rights reserved.

By jebrownwriter

Houston, TX-based Writer and Photographer. Proud pet rescuer who spends nearly all his money on them.

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