Set the fire on fire. Burn off the burning feeling with a different burning feeling. Run.

Sprint up the hill. Lungs burning. Heart threatening to exit my chest. All the way. That’s one. Hands on hips. Belly protruding. That’s a hundred yards up the hill. Do it again.

Walk back down the hill and spring back up again. Is that as fast as you can go, old man? Five more times. That makes six. Heat. Dizziness. My skin is turning red from the sun. Options: sit on the curb or pass out. I sit. For a minute. Then walk back down for another. That makes seven. Sit again…eight. Sit again…nine…ten…eleven…twelve. I think I need to vomit.

I walk into the driveway of my father’s house and find the dirt area along the side. Dry heaves. False alarm. Let’s do one more. Thirteen.

I sit on the ground wondering how I will stand back up. My knee is throbbing. Soon it will be stiff. It will lock out on me. It will betray me as I have betrayed it. Sit in the shade. Maybe this will do it. Maybe the sweat will douse the fire.

Then the thoughts come again: I’m a serial number. Nobody was there when the fire was just a spark. The sweat begins to dry and the fire starts up again. At least now I’m too tired to hurt anyone. At least now my body is tired and aching and useless. Now only my words can hurt the world. Cancel all plans. Do not speak. Tape your mouth shut if you must. Protect yourself from the world. Protect the world from you.

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