I was probably seven or eight when my curiosity about fires got the best of me. I thought the red-fiery characteristics of a flame was deep and intense; telling exciting stories and yet so quiet except for the quiescent hisses you’d hear from time to time. I imagined that something so beautiful couldn’t possibly be capable of causing grave damages as I had so many times heard my mum say. But on this fateful day, I decided to give life to my imaginations and discover the mystery behind fires.
My brother and I got back home from school that day, had our lunch and took a nap. When we woke up, we worked on our homework and decided to pass time by watching our favorite TV shows (Sesame Street, Voltron, Jumbo etc) since our parents weren’t going to be home until 7 pm. My older sisters were home too and soon as I noticed everyone was engrossed with the TV shows, I sneaked away.
Now, I grew up in Nigeria, in West Africa. We had incessant episodes of power outages, so over time families resorted to always having a plan B for electricity like candles, kerosine lanterns or generators. Being aware of this, I wandered off to the kitchen, got a hold of a candle stick and a match box and went straight for the room I shared with my sisters. We had an book shelf that contained old books and papers and I figured that was the perfect material I needed to start a fire so I grabbed a few papers, lit my candle and started lighting up the papers one after the other.
Oh! what a wonder it was, I stared endless into the fire I ignited on each paper while holding it, making sure I dropped it to the hard tiled floor to quench before it got to my fingers. It was like going on an adventure with “Indiana Jones” or like sailing the seas with “Simbad” or like flying through the sunset lit skies with “Superman”. I just couldn’t get enough so I kept lighting up papers until I felt a sharp pain on my fingers, I awoke from my reverie and sent the ignited paper in my hand flying and shockingly it went straight for the curtain and Whaaaaam!!!! the curtain was set a blaze.
Immediately, I started panicking. I was both scared and confused. I ran to the kitchen, filled a bowl with water and ran to the room; at this time the fire was two times more. I poured the water into the fire hoping to quench it but to my utter fright it increased. I just stood there, contemplating what to do next. I was too scared to tell my older sisters who were in the sitting room at this time what was going on and I broke out in hot sweats. It was one of the most horrible sights I had ever witnessed. At this time the room was filled with black smoke forcing its way out through the windows and heading for the door. I ran to the sitting room, my sisters and brother were all engrossed with their TV shows, completely oblivious of what was going on. “t-t-the r-o-o-oom is o-n f-i-i-i” I could barely get the words out of my mouth. While they were still trying to comprehend what I was saying. I heard the honking of my parents car as they drove into the compound.
I heard bounding steps coming up the stairs urgently and next thing I knew My brothers who were in the car with my parents; having seen the smoke coming from the window, went for the buckets, bowls, whatever kind of container they could lay their hands on and started pouring water and dry sand into the fire. After about an hour or maybe more; certainly seemed like eternity to me. The fire finally stopped. I was exhausted, sad and couldn’t stand the look of disappointment I read in my mom’s eyes.
My dad was probably too upset to say anything. I broke down and began to cry. My mom called me to her room and said, “fire is really dangerous and can kill. If someone dies they can’t come back ever again”. I looked into her eyes and saw the love and concern in them and it hit me. And for the first time, I realized that whether I went on adventures with Indiana Jones, or went sea sailing with Simbad or flying through the skies with Superman, it wasn’t half as important and precious to me as my family…