Jesus is a Blue Flame

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Booksie Classic
This is a true story… the events & characters all crossed paths, interacted, separated, and found each other again.

Submitted: October 27, 2013

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Submitted: October 27, 2013



I'd like to tell a story.
This has weighed heavy on my mind and I'd like to share it with you...
When I moved to Santa Barabara back in 2005, I worked one day at a Christmas tree lot. There were several reasons why I didn't continue the job, but the foremost was I really didn't like getting dirty; no, worse than that, I didn't like getting sappy.

I also didn't care much for the lot manager, (who all-in-all was a good guy), but believed in management by duress & ridicule. You know the type; good, hard working men that feel they have to test your mettle, (constantly), to see if you have what they consider the Measure of a Man. I just wanted to do the work... not have to pass the manly-man test every hour on the hour.
During my one day stint I met this very cool "Kid"
(early 20's)
From the moment we met, we had an unspoken respect for one another. He understood my discomfort with  Mr.Man and immediately looked to shield & protect me from him; as well as show me the ropes... (literally)

The first thing he did, was teach me how to tie a tree to the roof of a car without it falling off a mile down the road. Believe me, there is a very real technique to this!
To this day I can't remember his name, but I will always remember how inexplicably impressed I was with his character & integrity

I have to tell you, in the deepest recess of my mind, in that place where your consciousness whispers your thoughts... I wish … I could remember his name.

He was a good looking young man, long, lean; dark hair, a causal demeanor that was enlivened by his genuine smile. He told me about his girlfriend, his future plans for work & school, all motivated by his strong faith in Christ. That's what was most impressive. He truly believed in helping and caring for people. 
I remember thinking, "I really like this guy, we're sure to be long term friends"
The next day the more I thought about being in the context of man-cave duress the less engaged I felt. So I opted to leave that situation. I went to the lot, turned in my sap covered work gloves and surrendered a pair of sticky tree trimmers. What a relief... believe me.
My only regret was I didn't get to see the "Kid" again; or say good-bye.
About 3 months later, (all settled into a groovy Santa Barbara way of life), I'm sitting in a coffee shop reading the paper and in walks the "Kid". Same good looks, same genuine smile, same demeanor of care. We talked for a while, cheerfully volleyed good will & humor and both agreed we absolutely needed to see each other again. But, of course, we didn't exchange information, I didn't even have a cell phone yet. So time goes by…... and it moves on.
Right after seeing him I began work at a new restaurant that was the west-coast version of Studio 54. Super models, sports stars & celebrities. Reality TV - for real.! It was an amazing place; a wonderland. My life experiences were catapulted into outrageously new orbits & cycles.
I like to read the paper everyday, you know, stay abreast of local & global news. I like knowing current events for my own "this is the world I live in" peace of mind, but also to have something of value to add to the conversation. 
About 6 months after seeing the "Kid" at that local coffee shop, (aptly named The Daily News), there was a 3 or 4 day story running in the paper. It was captivating; like a soap opera plot that you hurry home for everyday because you don't want to miss a thing. The articles were disturbing, moving, and oddly enough… evoked that weird, human nature, curiosity lean-in.
There are these vastly remote areas in the hills of Santa Barbara; backcountry regions that provide safe havens for communal people. Earthy types, but general escapists as well. That's cool. Sometimes I seek the same solace.
The story was about one of the rural homes that had a grandma house in the back. It was rented to a young man and his pet dog. For some unexpected reason, (later to be discovered), there had been a backdraft explosion in the grandma house. 

The explosion happened in the afternoon while the young man was inside sleeping. The story went on to described how he dove out a window after the explosion took place. He was burned, (severely), on over 70% of his body so after diving out the window he was totally disoriented. 

He wandered up a trail to a field some half mile away, all the while his dog followed -closely- behind him, staying by his side the entire time. The man was found laying in the grass an hour later, and rushed to the hospital in critical condition. His dog was taken to the pound.
There were several follow up stories speculating attempted suicide, (propane tank), to irregularities in housing standards & regulations. It turned out the owners were at fault and legal actions were to ensue. 

The articles focused a bit about the young man's daily condition, but shifted more & more onto the heroics of the dog. I remember finding it odd how little was said about this man by day 3 or 4. I also remember feeling really disturbed about how abrupt that explosion experience must have been. I mean... he was asleep.
About 3 months after, (time moves on), I'm sitting in the same coffee shop. It was a weekday, my one day off. I was doing my laundry and having coffee in-betweenspin & dry cycles. In walks the "Kid"... again. Different though, same genuine smile, (there was no mistaking that), but I have to say it took me a good minute or two to resister who that smile belonged to.
The scars of his realities were more than apparent; his nose & ears weren't even reconstructed; they were just gone. You could tell his fingers had basically melted away. Skin graphs were visible everywhere. It was a horrible sight; shocking.

Yeah, it took me a minute or two to resister the character… 
(but another minute or two to wrap my mind around the visual)
He was amazingly affable.
I was incredibly, awkwardly, uncomfortable.
I asked him to sit down. We began with a few minutes of space filling small talk. Lame, pretense-y, "I don't see what I'm seeing" catch up conversation. Me, gibber-gabbering about my oh-so important work at a gloss & glam restaurant and such. I blabbed on & on about totally inconsequential things.

All the while my mind was spinning in these crazy circles. I was looking, (trying not to look), at his destroyed body & face. Thinking to myself, "Do I just ask him what happened or do I simply act as if it isn't an issue? What? Well? Now what?
I felt stupid, totally out of control; and strangely enough... oddly removed. 
It was just awful. Hewas  - such a good looking Kid!
After spewing & sputtering all that space filling stuff, the conversation turned to his past 6 months. He went right into the "explosion experience". I was amazed. I told him I had read the stories, (all of them), that I had absorbed every written detail.

I couldn't believe it…  it was him.

To this day, I still have a hard time wrapping my mind around it. 
Just as silently, just as haunting , my mind still whispers it…. "it was him"
He said the afternoon of the explosion he was laying in bed resting. He woke up to a feeling there was someone in his house. He stood up, and in that instant saw a wall of flame coming directly at him; in that exact moment he uttered - "Jesus"
Because of the explosion the word came out in a blue flame.
He was literally breathing, (and speaking) ... fire.
I listened to him speak and my body went weak. I was dumfounded, awkward, uneasy; I didn't know what to say or do. It's weird but you simply cannot be comforting, cool, (real), when you yourself are so uncomfortable.
I told him that I was glad to see that he had recovered so well, that we must get together, (although I work a lot), my clothes must be dry! I'll see you. And off I went, feeling like the disoriented coward I was. Fleeing his obvious loneliness... and my wide-eyed fear of his tragic realities.
The rest of that day I couldn't shake how deeply effected I was by it all.
Him, me, life... Actuality-Reality
That night at work I told everyone the story. We all seem to react somewhat the same way - dismayed, saddened, fearful.... (move away)
I thought of him a lot.
A few months later I did some modeling work with a very cool female photographer in downtown Los Angeles; Alisa. We had talked over the phone several times prior to meeting. She explained she had been in an accident and therefore walked with a cane; I figured a car accident.
She was a wonderful woman, so much wit & character. So causal & cool. She used to work as a stunt woman. She had all these outrageous Hollywood stories to share with me. I was captivated by her; enamored.

It turns out her accident was a camping accident. She had bought a new thermo sleeping bag for the trip. Somehow it caught fire while she was in it. The molten material fused to her body, burning her severely on her feet, her left side, and destroying most of her right forearm & hand. 

She was in intensive care for a month. While recovering she had a stroke from the trauma. More months in intensive care. (wow)
She said the most disturbing thing about the stroke was she could no longer string her thoughts together. That she would forget whole episodes of her life. That if aDick & Jane book were placed before her she simply couldn't figure out what it said; although she knew... she should know.
Her life changed so dramatically; so quickly.
There I was dumbfounded; again.

But here's what got me the most. After a very fun day of "urban guerrilla" photo shots, (so much fun!), we  were driving in her car, back to mine. As we were talking about her life, her experiences, (her future), she said to me. "you know Mark... all of this physical stuff is bad enough, but it isn't the worst thing - not even close". 

Me, (all wide-eyed again), "what in the world could be worse"?

In that same haunting, back-of-my-mind whisper she says, "almost all of my friends have left me… vanished". 

Silence; dead silence. 

I thought for a while, I had to, there was absolutely nothing inside my numb, frozen mind, I finally said, (in my same dumbfounded, blabbering way), "well I'm sure your true friends have always stayed by your side". "No", she said. "all but one of my friends have abandoned me... no one wants to be near, or reminded, of a Frankenstein".
I shivered. I thought about how beautiful she is, then, I thought of the "Kid", and no matter how much I hated that Awful Truth, spoken so eloquently, so matter-of-fact... it was true.
I didn't know how to be near it. I didn't want to be near it. I couldn't be near it.
It (?)

Isn't that awful? - I mean "Them"
I shivered again. This time... in my own dead silence.

You see, for me, this went even deeper… 

If I did stay near the two of them, say out of guilt or from the pangs of shame-full shame, it would simply be contrived friendship; forced. Even more uncomfortable. (for everyone)
Here's the epilogue to this tragic tale… 
3 days after meeting, greeting & loving Alisa, I was at Trader Joe's in Santa Barbara buying my dinner for the night. I had just finished working out and my mind was full of silly little life worries that don't amount to much of anything.
I walk out the door, my arms full of groceries, and who do I run into?
You've got it… the "Kid"
I say, "hey... what are you doing"? "Well", he says, still smiling, all the genuine essence gone, (completely)  - "I'm homeless"

Of course, I'm shocked by this. I say, "but aren't they taking care of you"What about the lawsuitThe settlement?". "Oh yeah", he says, "that… it's um, it's all in the works".
He just rambled on about all kinds of different things. I couldn't register any of it. I was shocked, stunned, numb, (dumbfounded), by the implications of that heart wrenching moment, he had literally gone crazy; drugs and all. (his mind was gone)
I gave him the money I had on me, looked him in the eyes as deeply as I could, (a little less cowardess in my demeanor), and told him what a beautiful person I had always thought him to be - and said good-bye.
I got into my car, closed the door, turned the engine on, turned the radio off… and began to cry. 

Who I "Cried" for I honestly can't tell you. 
I'm still working that out..
Actuality & Reality
I wish I had hugged him… (but I couldn't)

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