A Burning Desire

Andrew Sullivan —  Oct 21 2014 @ 9:42am


Mary Pauline Lowry confesses to pyromania:

The constraints of attentive parents kept my pyromania to a minimum for the next few years. I’d light a few matches while my mom was in the shower, or feed scraps of paper to the gas burner on the stove if she stepped out to the grocery store. I told no one about my urge to light things — not even my big sister, whom I usually told everything. My mom would sometimes let me light candles on the dinner table. She would watch me closely and joke about the incident with the advent wheel. I’d feel a twinge of guilt — she wouldn’t have laughed if she knew it wasn’t just a one-time incident, how I yearned for more ambitious conflagrations.

In sixth grade, I was deemed old enough to make the short walk home from school with my best friend and then stay at home unsupervised for an hour or so. This brief window of freedom became a time for me to explore my pyromania more fully. I did most of my fire-lighting in the bathroom, operating under the theory that bathroom tile wasn’t flammable. The first time I lit a match and sprayed the tiny flame with Aqua Net, the ensuing fireball was so big and breathtaking that I felt satisfied — and only a little afraid.

I wondered if these urges would ever be appeased. But even as I hoped I would outgrow my love of fire, I took bigger and bigger risks.

(Photo by Flickr user herval)