Hey little girl. Pardon. Young lady? Hello, young lady. Is your daddy home? I mean, your father? I mean, is there an adult home?

Or are you, in fact, all alone? These are things one asks, even given the circumstances.

It’s not what one would normally open with, but life is short, and I would like to tell you: I have a bad desire. The kind that is frowned upon in certain social circles of small-town America. I do not censure this desire, but it creates a rift between me and those I come in contact with, as I must secret away a part of myself to pantomime the necessary conventions of daily life. I hope that you feel free to express your desires however you like, that you are able to “live your truth,” as those of your generation are wont to say. I do not feel it necessary to elaborate further on this point at this time. Unless you have questions, which I would be glad to answer at length.

I am also, incidentally, on fire. Perhaps you could call for help.

Tell me now, young lady? I’m sorry to gender you like that. Pre-adolescent human? An improbable exploration of organic finitude? Is your father good to you? Is he a good dad? Does he listen? I’m sorry to harp on your father or assume that you are bound to a biological family unit in this way. It’s just that, you know, I had some problems with my father myself that I am currently working through. It is a life-long process.

Can he do to you things that I do, such as gesture wildly with one flaming arm or fill the air with the distinct smell of burning rubber? Oh no. The look on your face tells me that he does not, can not. I can take you higher, for one needs to feel elevated, to feel truly seen by another human being in order to escape (even if just for a moment) the knowledge that we are all basically alone.

Oh, oh, oh. I am, still, on fire. I hope you have taken account of this and that you have contacted the appropriate authorities. Much obliged.

Since we have some time until the firemen — the firewomen? The fire people? — arrive, I will continue speaking about the human condition. Sometimes it’s like someone took a knife, sorry to bring violence into this, but sometimes it’s as if someone took a knife, edgy AND dull, and cut a six-inch valley through the middle of my skull. Which is to say that the cruelty of life practices specificity and precision. But do not fear the six-inch valley. You can make the six-inch valley into your safe place. At night, I wake up with the sheets soaking wet, for I have placed this valley in the calm of a tropical rainforest. What would you do in your mental valley? In mine, I build elaborate model train systems that strike a delicate balance between nature and design. The model trains are very quiet and do not disturb the animals, which are almost always sleeping. It is important to actively construct utopias, even if they do not touch the physical realm. I place a freight train, carefully, just so, in the middle of this valley, and this freight train runs right through the middle of my head.

Only you can cool my desire, which at the moment, is not the desire I mentioned earlier. Sorry for bringing that up. I hope it did not cause you discomfort — it was important for me to communicate at the time. But now, I am consumed with a desire to live, to survive.

I really do hope you called the fire department.

Oh-oh-oh, I’m on fire. Are you aware of the gravity of my current situation? Perhaps you could throw a bucket of water over me.

Oh-oh-oh, I’m on fire. Or search for a blanket that you do not care about much to smother the flames.

Oh-oh-oh, I’m on fire. This is not a metaphor. I require immediate medical attention. Please help me.