I am indebted to Janet Tierney who inspired this conversation.
A red warning light flashing on my car's dashboard thermometer told me
the radiator had overheated on a freeway which had turned into a
parking lot due to traffic congestion. I pulled over to the median on
the side of the road to investigate.
I opened the hood to check the water level in the radiator. Everything
looked OK. Everything was quiet. No hissing steam. No bubbling sound of
boiling water. The thermometer warning must be an error, a false alarm,
I thought. I had some water in a container in the trunk. Being on the
side of the road with the hood open, and being that the traffic was
going nowhere anyway, I opened the radiator's cap to top it up with
The thermometer warning wasn't a false alarm. The
overheated radiator, having long since boiled its entire contents of
water and coolant, now contained only steam under such intense pressure
it sealed the cap even tighter than usual, creating an illusion nothing
was out of the ordinary. As I opened the cap, the steam
exploded all over my right forearm, instantly causing
first and second degree burns, barely missing my face and my right eye
- but only just. An invisible angel grabbed me by the hair and yanked
my head a micrometer out of the way with a mere nanosecond to spare.
The melted destroyed skin was later peeled off by a doctor who told me
my arm would heal but would be disfigured for life with ugly scars. I
said "Like hell it'll be!" (quietly, to myself - not to
him). He dressed my wounds, gave me an ice cream tub sized container of
burn cream, and sent me home.
I took a week off work and lay down on my couch with a thick layer of
burn cream all over my arm like icing on a cake which I'd plastered
there using a spatula from my kitchen. I propped my arm up on pillows
so it was upright in front of my face. I declared my intention to heal
myself, to be healed and whole.
No painkillers numbed the pain - I took none. The sensation was
intense, stinging, burning. The struggling skin contracted, tightening
on my forearm making it throb like I wore a wrist bracelet too tight.
Lying there relaxed with a crossword puzzle and the occasional
for entertainment and
I recreated the discomfort instantly it came up. Whenever stinging,
burning, and tightening sensations arose, I stayed one step
ahead of them, creating them intentionally,
re-creating them after the fact if I couldn't create them
immediately enough. If I succeeded in creating or recreating them
exactly as they occurred, if I succeeded in creating the
exact same sensation in the exact same location,
therewasnopain. Instead there as
a sensation of warmth, a good wholesome healing sensation
of ... well ... pleasure. Whenever I failed to create the
sensations or whenever I recreated them too late after the fact, the
pain was intense, excruciating.
When the open burn sores healed finally, my arm was unblemished,
spotless, perfect - not one scar.
I went back to the doctor for a checkup and rolled up my sleeve. He
looked at my arm, then looked at me, then looked at my arm again, then
looked at me again, you know, the classic double take.