The end of my teenage years were a rough time. I was lost in many ways, and for very personal reasons. But, mostly, I was a young man who had little adult supervision in the evening hours. This rarely ends well for teenage boys. Especially when one of your good friends is renting an entire house near the local university.
There was a group of us who would gather regularly at this house, at least twice a week. We were all scattered in age between 18 and 22. All of us post-high school, only perhaps one or two of us in college, and all of us with disposable jobs. I think everyone in the group had something extremely stressful happen to them in their life either recently or currently during this time of contained debauchery.
I say debauchery, but I don’t really mean it. We were all actually good kids, but we had a tendency to drink. We drank to get drunk, and we rarely bought any alcohol that would be considered “good.” There were 40oz malt beverages involved with names such as King Cobra and Magnum, and we would buy as many of those as we could because we were on a budget. Despite our drinking habits, we never actually caused any trouble. We rarely left the house, and if we did, it was on foot. If we knew one of us had to get back home that night, someone would not drink and make sure they returned safely. We mainly sat around listening to music, playing music badly, watching movies, or just doing whatever we could to make one another laugh.
Oh, and there was a Taco Bell within walking distance, so we tore that place apart. Figuratively, of course. It was the Taco Bell that tore us up from the inside the next day.
But just because we were good kids doesn’t mean we were smart about it. We certainly did many dumbass things that I’m grateful happened before the age of cell phone videos with easy uploading to Vine, Snapchat, or YouTube. Back in the end of the 90’s, you could be a dumbass and keep that shit private.
On one of the nights when we were particularly short on money and alcohol, a great friend of ours made an unscheduled appearance with a bottle of 110. It was shitty vodka that was named after its proof, so anyone buying a bottle of this stuff was basically telling the cashier that they were planning on getting completely shitfaced. Upon seeing that our opportunity for intoxication had just become wide open, our moods improved to the point of becoming feverish. This same friend, who I will keep anonymous, but everyone reading this who knew him knows exactly who I’m talking about, decided that we should not simply drink the bottle of 110, we should make it into an event.
“Let’s do Flaming Jesuses!” he proclaimed.
“What in the hell is that?” we all needed to know.
And he simply showed us. He poured a shot of 110 into a shot glass, lit the top on fire, and proceeded to down the flaming drink like it was no big deal. Seemed like a silly step in between alcohol and your belly to light the shit on fire, but binge drinkers typically enjoy a little flair when moods are up. He made doing the shot look quite simple. He lit it, tossed it back, smiled, and poured the next shot.
And he passed this next shot right to me. I took the full shot glass in my hand and my friend lit it on fire. It swirled with blue flame right away, because 110 proof alcohol actually should not be consumed, it should be used for cleaning and disinfecting. But drink, we did.
I stared at the blue flame for a moment, only considering the fact that I had no idea of what I was about to do for a nanosecond. Then, I simply tossed the shot back. Immediately, I realized that I should have asked for instruction.
What my sly friend had done when he threw back his Flaming Jesus was exhale sharply just before he let it fall into his mouth, blowing out the flame. He had done these many times, I learned after, and he had no idea that I was clueless in regard to how to handle drinking fire. I assure you, I was not the only clueless person in the room, I was just the example.
I remember starting to pour the shot into my mouth and feeling a burning, searing, warm sensation on the roof of my mouth that did not seem natural. Reflexes still intact, I clamped my mouth closed and jerked the shot glass forward. What this accomplished was extinguishing the fire in my mouth, but in the same motion splashing alcohol all over my hand and arm, causing my entire right extremity to be engulfed in blue flame.
The entire room panicked, but was too terrified to actively help. Cried of “Blow it out, Mike!” surrounded me, arms waved wildly and helplessly, but no one actually came to my direct aid. As I watched the blue flame travel farther down my arm, I realized I had to do something, anything. And that’s when my brain made a quick and awful decision. It decided to listen to the advice of “Blow it out, Mike!”
Blow, I did. I blew hard. There was a lot of fire to get rid of. As far as the duty of blowing at the flame was concerned, I knocked it out of the park. What I had failed to do, however, was swallow the part of the shot that made it into my mouth.
The resulting blue fireball from spitting 110 on top of a fire that was already consuming my arm was spectacular. The blue cascaded off of my hand and out to the carpet and other people. For a split second, it was amazing. I had a superpower. I could breathe fucking fire. Then the amazement died down in the very next moment as everyone started yelling at the same time about either me, the carpet, or another person being on fire.
Luckily, we finally snapped out of our trance enough to stamp out all of the flame, and since it was only alcohol burning, no one actually got hurt, and no carpet melted. I don’t think my friend ever got his security deposit back on that house, but somehow that had nothing to do with that night.
I enjoy this memory because it grounds me. If I ever catch myself feeling smart or anything silly like that, I remember how I tried to spit 110 vodka all over my arm to blow out a fire that was started by not knowing how to handle something called a Flaming Jesus.
“The Flaming Jesus Incident” is a big piece on the spectrum of my capabilities.