When I was seven years old, I dropped a two-gallon pot of boiling water on myself. This story begins earlier that afternoon when my dad picked me and my brothers up from school. He had just gotten off work and wanted to stop by my grandmother’s for a quick visit before we headed home. I loved granny’s house. There was always company and fun and most importantly, there was always food. You could smell the many aromas of spices and meat from her kitchen from a block away.
We pulled up and a bunch of my aunts and cousins were outside enjoying the new spring weather. I hurried out of the car to see if I could find my cousin Julian, but sadly he wasn’t there that day. “Hey Mike! Come here!” I heard my dad call. I hurried through the maze of hips and legs to get to where he was at the top of the stoop. Upon arriving at the front door, I was greeted with a smile and to my delirious liking, a boiled egg. I was starving and could only think about getting home so I could feast on a can of Chef Boyardee while I watched Gargoyles, so when I was presented with such a simple, tasteless treat to break my fasting, you bet your bottom I accepted.
As my dad surfed through everyone giving his farewell before we hit the road, I stuffed my yolk powdered mouth with the last piece of egg. “Just one boiled egg?” I thought to myself was quite the tease, and I was intoxicated with the taste of salt and nothing, so I knew I needed more. “ Dad, dad! Do you have any more eggs? I want more.” “No that was it son, if you want I’ll make you more when we get home. Let’s go.”
The whole ride there I kept thinking about how much I wanted to eat those eggs. When we finally got home, I rushed inside and quickly threw my things off to get into my inside clothes. I ran into the kitchen to meet my dad. “Alright, Mike how many do you want?” my dad asked. “Mmm I want three!” I told him. “Alright, fill a pot up with water from the sink, I’ll get the eggs.” I began looking for a small pot but couldn’t find one, so I grabbed the next best thing. I started filling the pot we used to make soup and cook noodles in, which could easily fit a newborn inside. My dad left the kitchen and told my older brother, Josh, to watch me in the kitchen because he was going to take a shower. “Stay away from the eggs, Michael. It’s very hot and I’m going in the shower. Don’t try to get it yourself; when it’s done, ask your brother.”
About fifteen minutes flew by and I grew highly impatient. My brother was in the living room watching TV and I paced back and forth into the kitchen waiting for my food. “Is it ready yet?” I asked Josh. “Not yet Mike, five more minutes” he responded as he stared at the screen. I looked at the clock and it put me at ease, for five minutes would quickly pass.
Like a strike of lightning, I jolted up and headed into the kitchen. The time was now and I knew the eggs were firmly boiled enough to finally enjoy them. “It’s ready Josh! Let’s take them out!” I exclaimed. “Alright hold on Mike, the show is almost over. I’ll be right there, DON’T touch the pot, I’m coming” he said. But of course, I was far too hungry and a tad too bold for my own good, and I engaged on my own.
I figured I could easily carry the pot of steaming, popping water for I had filled it just moments ago and put it on the stove before my dad put the eggs in. I put on cooking mittens that reached up to my elbow and took a firm grasp onto the pot handles. I had to lift my arms past my head to reach it, and at such an age, I wasn’t exactly versed in the etiquette of physics. As I began to lift the pot off the stove, the water inside shifted and swayed in the pot. I stepped back and continued to hold the pot as I tried my best to balance the swiveling pot in my hands. Suddenly I stopped to get a strong stance so as to not fall backwards, but at that very moment, the waves of water were tilting towards me. The force of my standstill thrust the pot towards me and a steaming waterfall poured onto my torso.
The thundering of the pot slamming the floor drew the attention of everyone in the house. Josh quickly stood up and looked into the kitchen. “OH MY GOD! MIKE!” he shouted. I stood there suspended as I lost myself in awe as to what was happening. There was no pain, no noise, no reaction. Everything moved in slow motion. My dad stumbled out of the bathroom soaked, still wrapping a towel around his waist. “WHAT! WHAT IS IT! WHAT HAPPENED” he yelled. “MIKE DROPPED THE HOT WATER DAD!” I pinned eyes with my dad, almost confused as to the excitement around me. His jaw dropped and he quickly came over to me. I stood there with my arms up at my sides and didn’t move. My dad took a knee in front of me and grabbed the bottom of my drenched t-shirt. He lifted the shirt, and as the fabric drew up, the first two layers of my skin came off with it. Everyone fell silent in terror. I looked at my dad’s horrid expression and then turned my head towards my stomach. All at once the pain, fear, and bewilderment overtook me. “AHHHHHH” I screamed, looking at the white of my flesh juxtaposed against the brown of my skin.
My dad grabbed me by the arms and rushed me into the bathroom. He quickly took my soaked shirt off and shorts and wrapped covered me with a towel. I sobbed in pain and regret for not having listened to the several warnings given to me just moments prior. My brother began to rinse my hands under cold water to soothe and distract my focus from the areas that really needed attention. “You’re alright Mike. Just leave your hands under the water, it’s gonna help you. You’ll be alright man,” he told me. “How do you know?” I asked with hopelessness. “Has this happened to you before?” “Yes it has and you’re gonna heal and get better, don’t worry bro,” he confidently replied. My father returned fully dressed a few minutes after with a windbreaker track suit for me to put on. It was light with enough interior room for the burns on my chest and torso to breathe.
The house immediately turned into a state of emergency, and motions to get me to the hospital initiated. In a matter of ten minutes I was carried, undressed, comforted, redressed, sent outside and into a taxi with my dad. I remember the burning cool sensitivity of my raw wounds when it pressed against the jacket I wore as we stormed to the hospital. Everything was moving so fast and deliberately, but I remember how slow and steady my breathing was. I tried not to move much. I kept telling myself I’d be okay, that this would be over soon, to just hang in there a little longer. “We’re almost there Mike,” I heard my dad say, “Don’t worry son, it’s gonna be alright, I’ll take care of you.”
Once we arrived, my dad hurried me into the ER and sought help. He was entirely now in a state of emergency and acted with tenacious urgency. He carried me in his arms as he addressed any medical personnel he saw who could help me. After the process of alerting the nurses, doctors, orderlies, and attending to my injuries, I recall myself lying on a bed while a nurse dabbed and cleaned my burns with a clear cool solution on cotton swabs. I could see my father outside of the room talking to a doctor, him seeming a lot more relieved than before, though still very much concerned for me. They both came in and began talking to me to see how I was doing and reassured me that I’ll be fine. I don’t remember how the conversation went verbatim, but I’ll never forget what the doctor said to me about the burns. “The burns only removed the first two layers of your skin which means it’ll heal back with some scars, but I don’t think you’ll need any grafts. The worst of the wounds is on your hip that was injured the most.” He then releases his professionalism and turns to me and says with humor, “But you’re very lucky Mike. Any closer and you wouldn’t be having kids.” As appreciative as I am now for such luck, it was still quite relieving to hear as a child.
I would spend the next two and a half weeks recovering at the hospital, missing schooldays that served as a pleasing vacation, but also missing my family who I longed to play and run around with again. My dad came and accompanied me each night right until I was released. As a kid, I had spent much time in the hospital because of my asthma and its severity, so I was all too familiar with the customs and procedures as a patient. I was a victim of chronic asthma since birth and suffered more than most from it at an early age. When I was two years old, I had caught a really bad fever and it triggered a highly aggressive, violent asthmatic response. My at-home treatments weren’t working and periods of normalizing my breath didn’t last for more than fifteen minutes. My parents had no choice but to take me to the ER. After several other trials of failed treatments and the growing struggle for air sent my body to the brink of cardiac arrest, the doctors put me into an induced coma for three days. It actually amazes me the amount of times I’ve flirted with an adolescent demise.
I had developed a liking to being hospitalized; I thought it was fun. Whenever I had been taken into the care of the hospital before, I was sure of two things; eating fast food and receiving a gift. Whoever was sent to stay by my side as I endured another episode was guaranteed to bring me a Wendy’s Jr. Cheeseburger and a new little something, whether it was a small book from the gift shop downstairs, or an action figure I requested from home to appease my imagination. This time around was different though. I had never spent more than two or three days in the hospital. And no one was allowed to visit me for the first week except my father.
I was bedridden for a good portion of the time as my wounds crusted over, but every day I would have a man come in from the fitness center there and he would help me walk up and down the hall to get me moving. At the end of the hall, I had discovered a small playroom for the child patients. I would go in there on my own when I was bored and play with the various toys and games. I became friends with the aides who worked there and each time I came in we would play a different board game. I wasn’t much for playing board games, simply because, well, they bored me. But one afternoon in particular was the most fun and rewarding time I’ve ever had at the hospital.
It was one of the last nights I was spending there before I shipped off back home. It was rainy outside and I was terribly bored. No one had arrived to keep me company yet and I was restless. Finally I decided I’d get up to walk around some. The hall was fairly dead and I could only see a few nurses and attendants chattering amongst themselves. Not much was happening to ease my anxious nerves so I headed down to the playroom. When I arrived, I was greeted by two older ladies who were entertaining two other kids playing there. “Hey there, what’s your name?” one of them asked. “I’m Mike,” I blushed a response. “Nice to meet you, Mike” the older lady said with a smile and handshake. “We’re about to get around and begin our drawing contest. Would you like to draw something for a chance to win one of these prizes?” She pointed towards a batch of wooden gift baskets filled with toys, coloring books, and enough candy to sour three stomachs. The immediate glow and growth of my eyes were enough of a response for the lady to laugh and hand me my own sheet of paper with a small pack of crayons. “Alright guys, we want you to draw a picture of anything you want, and the best one shall win one of those baskets to take home over there.”
I took a seat and scanned my opponents. There were only two other kids, a boy with a dusty head and pudgy face with a demeanor that seemed to bully me without saying a word, and a younger, more fragile girl with sad, sickly eyes and a faint smile. She was sweet, and I knew she just wanted to have fun. The other kid looked at me and we locked eyes. It was either me or him. I knew he had his eyes set on the same gift basket that I did, the one with the most awesome, boyish, and coolest of toys that were being offered. It was a yellow basket with blue ribbons and a candy-coated bottom.
“Alright kids, you have twenty minutes to finish your drawing. Begin!” The clock began and off we went. The little girl began drawing a flower with the help of one of the ladies. The boy had turned and leaned over his drawing busily as I looked with intrigue to see what my competition was. About three minutes passed and I had yet to begin. I hadn’t the faintest idea of what to draw. I liked to draw but couldn’t think of any go-to character which would solidify my chances for victory. Then like a soaring rock slamming against my head, it hit me. I picked up a yellow crayon and starting drawing who I thought was the coolest, most clever cartoon kid I had come across in my seven years on the planet; Bart Simpson.
As soon as I realized what I was going to do, I zoned in. I had this spectacular vision of Bart doing what he does best, skateboarding. I drew him zooming past a blue outlined picket fence in front of a tree and single-window house. The women in charge took notice and watched me as I lost myself in the drawing. They were surprised as much as they were fascinated that I had chosen a bit of a mature character to draw with an unexpected deliberate likeness. “Wow that’s very good, Mike!” one of them said to me. With the utmost adolescent arrogance and esteem, I knew I had this contest in the bag.
“Okay kids time’s up!” exclaimed the older lady as she stood up. She spread all the drawings out across the table and we looked at each other’s pictures. The boy had seen mine and unlike the jealous or envious expression I figured he’d exude, he conveyed excitement over what I had done. “Hey that’s really cool!” he said and leaned in for a better look. “Well I’d say we have a clear winner” one of the ladies said with a smile. “Congratulations Mike! You can choose one of those baskets over there for a prize!” It’s weird, because as set and sure as I was to win, I was still as embarrassed and overwhelmed with modesty as I always was. I walked over to the prizes and chose the one most suiting. Boy was I a happy camper.
Right after I accepted my reward and admiration, I headed back down to my room with a smile and sense of accomplishment. Not too long after my dad arrived with even more gifts and I told him what happened. He was shocked to see how vitalized and jumpy I was, and with such energy, he knew I was ready to go back home.
Two days later, I stepped out of a cab with my dad and bags, well enough to enter my house again. The very moment I opened my front door to get inside, a wave of smiles and overly excited voices welcomed me back. All of my brothers and sisters were there to greet me and express their affection. I came in with warm smile and eased my way over to them all. I was still moving pretty slow and had to take it easy while my wounds healed. “Oh man Mike I can’t believe you got all of these toys! Man, I wish I went to the hospital!” yelled my little sister Michelle. I was so happy to play with her again and my brothers, but even more so I was happy to be a part of the whole again. I was home again. I dropped all my things and went over to my sis. “Here Michelle you can play with all of it, let’s share the toys. Oh and I got candy too!”
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