One of the nicest things about the place in Hot Springs was the fireplace. I love building a fire, playing with it, watching it.

Yes, I’m a firebug.

I can imagine some jaws dropping right about now. Jade, a firebug? But she’s terrified of fire! And it’s true, fireplay, of the sort that seems to be the latest “edgeplay” out there in BDSM-land, turns my flight instinct on high (and makes my stomach turn as well, though that may be due to the fumes.) But it’s the sight of the fire, crawling over someone’s skin, or flickering in sparks off the end of a flogger, that terrifies me. Real, true, fear, the ancient, ingrained kind that screams, “Run away! Run!” and that I have to fight to control.

So how am I able to build a fire in a fireplace; how is it that I enjoy tending the fire so much? And where did this irrational (because I know in my rational brain that it’s “safe”, or at least as safe as any of the other risky things that we do) fear come from?

I used to be the firebuilder in my house. I grew up in a house that was completely heated by a wood stove, and every morning it was my job to get up early and build the fire back up from the ashes and coals of the night before. It was a chore, but I loved doing it–loved waking in the predawn before anyone else, feeling the cold being chased away as I built the fire up, knowing that I had an important “job” in the house.  I think it was one of my first experiences with feeling loved through service to others: the family would come out and tell me how wonderfully warm the house was, how good I was at building the fire, how much they appreciated it (and thus, by extension, me.) So how had I gone from that fire-loving girl to the woman that can barely stand to stay in a room where people are engaging in fireplay?

It wasn’t until this past weekend that it occurred to me (duh) that the reason I am afraid of fire came after my childhood. I of course know that the “trigger event” that started the fear was in my first marriage, in my twenties, but I didn’t really connect the dots to my unreasoning fear until I was building a fire Saturday morning and put a piece of scrap paper in for fuel. The smell of the burning paper brought the incident so clearly into my mind it was as if I was right there, all over again. For that one moment, I was back in that locked closet and my ex was outside the door, threatening to burn the house down, and me in it, if I left him. (Um, yeah, there’s a bit of a logic-snafu there, but he wasn’t the smartest guy sometimes.)

It was pitch black in the closet, but I could see the flicker of flames under the door, hear the crackle of fire, smell the smoke as it wormed its way under the crack in the door. I remember my horror and terror, I remember screaming and crying…but then that’s it.  Nothing more.  I know he didn’t burn the house down (later he would ridicule me that I would actually believe a piece of paper burning was the house burning down.)  But I don’t remember him letting me out or what happened after. I imagine my hysteria must have clued him in that he’d gone too far, or perhaps my screams alerted his mother, who lived in the house next door.  I do know my hands were scraped and bloody, my body bruised in odd places, for days afterward, but I’m fairly certain that he didn’t inflict physical injuries on me.  Only  psychological ones, ones that rear up and bite me in the ass when I am least expecting it.


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