pieces of the cremated pizza boxes will swirl around you and the ashy dandruff will get caught in your hair and dust the entryway. when your boyfriend burns pizza boxes on the grill, his apartment will smell like he spent march drinking 40 ouncers and charbroiling his cold, sandy tootsie on superior point.
"what are you going to do today?" i asked chuck.
"hmm," the student of leisure mused. "i'd like to burn pizza boxes in the grill."
i laughed. i thought he was kidding.
he gave me a blank no-nonsense look.
"and maybe i'll make turkey burgers over the flame," he added.
and i knew he wasn't kidding. chuck doesn't kid about turkey burgers.
chuck doesn't, like, collect pizza boxes. they are just something that happens. like, how when i was in my early 20s i woke up one day and realized i had an entire bookshelf filled with frog figurines and frog windchimes and frog tea sets and frog beanie babies and a frog that burped a christmas song. later i'd make myself a frog-themed bathroom. not much later than that i decided that if i ever received another froggie gift i was going to be hoppin' mad. i dismantled my display. (i can only assume those beanie babies are worth about $6 by now).
now, not only do i not collect anything, i think people who do are losers who favor elastic wastebands and wheel of fortune, the home version.
"what do i get to do?" i asked him. i wanted in on this.
"hold the bucket of water?" he suggested.
chuck broke the boxes down to squares that were small enough to fit in his grill. he lit a corner and we watched the small flame slowly gnaw away at the box. it wasn't very satisfying. he added more small squares and eventually he had a real rager on his hands. i fed him boxes and he fed the fire. twice it seemed to teeter on the brink of danger, forest fires and 911 phone calls and skin grafts.
i backed into the house and grabbed his arm. he kept his left hand inches from the top of the grill, in case he needed to suddenly shut down the hilarity.
"you're scared of fire and water," chuck said.
"and earth and wind," i added.
"is this illegal?" i asked him.
"seems like it," he said.
when all the boxes were gone, we watched them melt into something containable and he put the lid on the grill.
he made turkey burgers on his stove.
"you were squealing with delight," he said of the fire.
late last night we were sitting on chuck's couch watching tv. i was dirty. i'd not showered, and i'd gone for a run at the ymca and i was still wearing workout clothes. i unzipped my sweatshirt and he laughed when he saw my shirt.
old navy, circa 2003. a vintage fourth of july t'shirt bearing an american flag and their not-good-enough-for-gap-crap logo.
"i just grabbed a t'shirt," i said. "i knew it was ugly when i put it on. but i didn't think i'd end up wearing it out-out."
he continued to eye the shirt.
"it's not even mine, technically," i explained.
i didn't buy this shirt. it belonged to hockeyrific, a guy i dated not very seriously and not very well in the early parts of 2004. he had left it at my house after a weekend visit and when i thought it may be true love i continued to sleep in it because i liked how it smelled. and other things that make me laguna beach's target market.
then i realized he couldn't say a sentence that did not involve the minnesota gophers.
but i thought maybe that was endearing.
then he dropped me off after a date and said "keep in touch."
and then i thought "yeah, well, you never shut up about the freakin' gophers."
so i washed it and folded it and put it in a drawer and began running in it.
i tell chuck this.
"it's ugly," he says. "i'm going to burn it."
in the time since the first pizza box burning, chuck had finished off leftover pizzaman and its smaller cheese bread companion. there were two new boxes waiting for incineration.
around 4 a.m., he started a small corner of the box, then more and more pieces. i took the shirt off, stood in his entryway in a sports bra and he tossed the shirt into the fire.
"i'm burning this because it is ugly," he said. "not because it was an exboyfriend's."
"is it still against the law to burn the flag, though?" i asked him.
chuck found me another shirt, also with an american flag, to wear to sleep.
i get the feeling that this summer, things will be burned. i think all the fire stoked chuck's inner pyro.