He loved steam. He was fascinated by it. There was a magic to something that was so mysterious. Yes, he could read the science books and try to understand the process that turned water into vapour, but he’d still be amazed by it when it did. Steam was a transformation, a new face of something so faceless. Steam gave water some darkness and personality. It gave us something more to fear from the quiet and peaceful liquid.
He loved steam burns. Not on himself, he wasn’t that crazy. He was just in love with the idea of them. They held a subdued violence that drew him in. It was so easy to forget how hot beautiful steam was. Its white misty body would dance in its unpredictable way over bubbling water, or shoot in controlled chaos out of the screaming spout of a teapot. We have all reached to turn off the element or take off the whistle and we’ve been stung by the sharp pain of steam. We pull away quickly. It’s not until later, when the steam has vanished, the water has calmed and we’re sipping our tea that the ache comes. There on our arm is a pulsing hurt that was so covertly dealt to us by a screaming enemy.
Of course, steam was wonderful and useful for any average snoop or busy body. When harnessed safely using a steam iron or being extra careful with the aforementioned teapot, one could unseal the most confidential of envelopes to become privy to the information within. And it was due to the wonderful power of steam that it would go unnoticed. The water, hot and furious, would slide itself under and through paper to loosen horrible tasting glue, but it would be delicate enough not to disturb the paper. Steam’s tender fingers could reveal secrets and leave no trace.
But steam was a beast that could change things too. Like water in its pure form could mould and sculpt beautiful pieces of smooth wood adrift in the ocean, so steam could change the shape of wood if given time. Steam could warp and bend it, it could crack veneers. Steam could change carpets and fabrics, make them look new. Steam could make paint bubble and cause wall paper to fall off walls. Steam could curl the pages of books and destroy a musical instrument. It could also sooth someone who had a broken body and help someone with a common cold.
In many ways she was like the steam that he loved so much. Of course, he didn’t much care for the attributes when they were seen in her, but he still noticed them as he thought about her while watching steam billow from a factory tower. The whole world loved steam, they would go to parks just to see what he was seeing man manifest in front of him.
When he pulled away from her, he remembered a sharp pain. Things had been brought to a vicious boil. It was only when things had cooled that he felt the knowing, burning pain that she left him with. But there was no ointment for him and she hadn’t screamed out a warning. This pain brought the clarity of opening an envelope of all secrets. He saw things as they were and he was filled with regret and remorse. Her sneaky hands and soft touch, at one point opening him up, now vanished but left him with all the ugly truths within.
And now he was changed. He was warped and his shiny fake surface was cracked. He didn’t look new, he looked old, his eyes showed age. All the pages of his story were turned so that he couldn’t find the one he had folded, he couldn’t find his place. Thankfully, he thought, I have no reason to sing, no need to repair any damaged instruments.
He was still fascinated by steam and in the ways she mimicked it, he was fascinated by her. But she didn’t just take on the characteristics of magical steam, she became a steam engine. He looked at her as a locomotive. She was an unstoppable force running on the power of beautiful, terrible steam. And she was barrelling right toward him with all the strength of 10,000 horses. She was angry, she was powerful, she was on a set track directed at him. He didn’t hate her or fault her for her charging fury destined to crush and mangle him. He understood why he was the target for the steam powered steel.
He supplied the fuel. He caused the steam.