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  • Kerry Spradley

That time I set my friend on fire...or how I overcame my greatest fear.

It came back to me in a flash tonight as I was saging my office while wearing an old flannel shirt - Peter M's foolproof method for overcoming fear - two words - said most confidently - DO IT.

Let me take you back... The year is 1999, we are super cool college sophomores, doing super cool (read idiotic [Thank God it's 1999 B.C.P. before camera phones] things on a typical, average weekend. Peter was, and perhaps still is, a huge fan of fire. Having spent many boring Long Island summers making drippy bombs (his words) he had a great awareness and affinity for all things flammable. Or is it inflammable?

It became a personal insult that his dear friend (me) was crippled with fear by the mere mention of the dreaded four letter F word (Ahem, fire).

I had good reason for being afraid. I am sure anyone who was in my third grade class can attest to the horrors that were our field trip to Firematic to witness pictures of "the devil himself" (I kid you not) in raging house fires and then to traverse a real time simulation 'escape from a house fire'. I slept in my parents' room for weeks after that one...

Couple that with an older brother who had discovered the effects of an engaged lighter upon a stream of hairspray while aimed at a screaming younger sister with an overactive imagination...

Suffice to say, I was a bit squeamish around a match.

In fact, I vividly recall receiving a zero on a biology lab in 8th grade because I couldn't bring myself to light the bunsen burner. I digress...

So on this fated evening, my dear friend made it his personal quest to help me overcome this particular stumbling block. It began very simply, perhaps as a joke - "I bet you couldn't light it [his shirt] on fire."

This said to a stubborn overachiever with his lighter in her hand. SO stupid we were at 19.

I replied the only way possible. "Yeah I could".....crickets.....nothing....his reply?

"DO IT."

"Holy Shit! You lit me on fire! That was my favorite shirt!"

Don't worry folks, no harm but a small hole in what would now be considered a vintage flannel.

Why do I share this bit of idiocy? This bit of darkness?

Though it was a truly stupid act; [I'm a Mom now for goodness sakes and he's a Dad! (His soon-to-be-wife & Mother of his children was standing right along with us chuckling away mind you.)] it was so simple.

Do it. Get over it. Try. Don't let anyone tell you you can't. Most of all, don't let YOU tell you you can't. Unless of course you're considering lighting someone aflame - please don't do that.

You can do ANYTHING, even those things that might once have been crippling fears.

I'm happy to report I've since enjoyed many delicious roasted marshmallows over [safely] roaring fires.

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