Monday, February 16, 2015

The Perfect Match

Sparks flew through the air as she glanced across the room. Her chest leaped like a flame, and she felt like something was burning straight through her skin into her heart. Could it be...?

photo courtesy of
“AHHHHHH!” The shriek came from the kitchen along with a clattering of pots, as my housemate jumped backwards into the cupboard doors. “THOSE STUPID MATCHES!!”

 I stretched up to glance into the kitchen from where I was curled up on the couch—“did something....

“WHERE DID IT GO?? PUT IT OUT!! PUT IT OUT!!” She grabbed a damp rag from the sink and slapped the burning cinder, smoldering on the countertop. “It burned me!” she turned to me, affronted. “It landed on my arm!”

I grimaced and shrunk back into my seat. “So sorry...”

While Valentine’s Day brings many heated topics to the forefront, you’ll not find something that will ignite such sparks as the topic of matches discussed by those of us living here in Papua New Guinea (PNG).

When you were a child, your mother probably told you never to play with matches. The fireman who visited your school for Safety Day probably told you to never play with matches. Heck, even Smokey the Bear probably told you never to play with matches. Good advice, all things considering.

But I’m guessing what they meant by really dangerous are matches that are actually on fire...and here, when you can go through 30 matches at a pop to get a single weak flicker, that’s actually harder than it looks.

There’s always the chance that the matches themselves won’t have any lighter coating on them at all (so you’re basically rubbing two wooden sticks together), or that the entire box is so damp that it’s growing a pharmacy’s worth of mold (we threw out 12 boxes once...).

But, if you are lucky and the match is one piece and isn’t moldy has a tip of lighter coating and the match box isn’t soaking wet (or the lighter coating has fallen off), then you can move to stage two—clever techniques. Strike it so the match is parallel with the box. Strike two matches at once. Strike it so the match is perpendicular to the box. (always remembering that if you squeeze too hard or hold it too close to the end, the match will snap in the middle... Hold it gently, my young Padawan. Cradle it like a feather.)

Actually, your best bet is to just use a lighter.

If, against all odds, the match actually does light and you are giddy that you might actually get the stove lit and can start making dinner
, then at the apex of your swing, when it’s picked up full momentum, the flaming head will break off and fly across the room, a veritable flaming arrow straight to your heart (or clothes or bare skin or into your bowl of pancake batter or between the stove and the cabinet, where it will smolder and glow and strive for life...

She felt that if she just could cup her hands around the flame, it could grow, and they would have a chance. She bit her lip...was it worth it? If only she knew it was the right match...?