Today I burned a spatula, the only spatula that I owned. I was cooking rice (really just boiling the water) while I was on the phone with my brother discussing the finer points of the salinity of a salt-water aquarium (he was just starting an aquarium business out of his home).
I walked out of the room, pacing on the back porch, watching the fireflies run themselves into the screen, and then I heard the beeping of the smoke detector which I did not yet know was the smoke detector because I had never before burned anything.
I ran inside, still with my brother on the phone (I had him on my headset) and into a cloud of smoke that was bright orange. The spatula I owned was green plastic, so I was doubly confused because I did not yet know that the spatula was even burning until I reached the stove and saw a puddle of goo on the burner next to the pot with the water.
Too late, I realized I had turned on the wrong burner and the spatula had been resting on the stove. I went to turn the burner off, but by then I had a good face-full of orange smoke so as I was reaching my hand started to tilt sideways and I missed the dial completely. I tried again and missed, and then tried again and missed.
I laughed, and then I realized my brother had been trying to get my attention. “Candace if you don’t say anything I’m calling the police and sending them to your house!” He was saying. So paranoid, always paranoid he was.
“If you do, then I will hug you until you die,” I said, and then laughed at my wittiness.
“Seriously, what is going on?”
“Oh, just the spatula I think melted and now my face is too,” I said because I thought it was true. Really though, I reached up and could feel my nose sliding down along the cleft of my lips, as if it were a track to steer my nose into my mouth. My tongue could touch my left nostril and it had never been able to do that before.
“No lie,” I said. “Come over and see for yourself.”
And so, thirty minutes later, when the smoke had dispersed into a haze that made my kitchen and living room look as if they were lit by a sandstorm, my brother showed up at the door and I let him in.
He started laughing immediately and then held a hand over his mouth. He took a picture with his phone and turned it around to me. It looked like my nose had lowered about half an inch on my face.
“I think it looks better, actually,” I said. He nodded and then asked me what it was I had been cooking. I told him I was making some rice to go with the leftover lime chicken I had made two days ago. I invited him to stay for dinner.
He looked at the orange tinge of the room, which before had been painted blue with teak wood accents.
“Actually I think we should go to the Lotus Room,” he said, which was our go-to restaurant when we were kids, and before… before. It was Thai that you couldn’t beat.
I didn’t want to go out at all, because I had finished making the rice for my chicken and had cleaned up the spatula goo and had a lot of work to do tonight, mainly cleaning, and I had to be up early for work in the morning (I was an online teacher of English).
But as I told him all these things he just shrugged and opened the door, letting the orange dust get sucked out of the doorway like a vacuum in space.
“That’s not really a good enough excuse. It’s just dinner, Candace.”
He cocked his head to the side.
“You really do look better with your nose lower like that. I didn’t realize before how high it was, but now it looks just right.”
He smiled, as if he knew exactly what he was doing.
And so, with trembling fingers and a new(ish) face, I took his hand and he pulled me across the threshold of my house.
So simple, but that was really how I left my house for the first time in two years.
It makes me realize that I need to learn to make more mistakes.