It was my first childhood memory.
“Jack be nimble,” they said.
“Jack be quick!”
But they didn’t tell me what life would be like on the other side of that candlestick.
They didn’t tell me that I would become the Macaulay Culkin of nursery rhymes: a cautionary tale of too much flame too soon.
They didn’t tell me that I would be writing on my deathbed, in a body filled with scars from third-degree burns and saggy tattoos of flames.
They just told me to jump.
And jump I did.
I jumped into a life of pyromania. A sweaty inferno of sore calf muscles and greed. I’ve spent my entire life hopping from one flame to the next, and wondering where I’d be if I hadn’t been so nimble and so quick.
My parents whisked me into showbiz after the nursery rhyme was published. Birthday candles, campfires, firecrackers on the 4th of July… I jumped over it all. An agent spotted me leaping over a box of ashes at an Irish funeral and my flame grew bigger from there.
I became a traveling minstrel of candlestick fame. To me, burning rubber wasn’t just a figure of speech. It was a way of life. I performed outside of 4-alarm fires in Brooklyn, I leapt over dead pigs at Hawaiian Luaus, and I swam in puddles of candle wax just to stay fit. I won an elementary school jump rope contest by using an extension cord instead of regulation rope, and dutifully hopped over a feverish baby at a Norwegian hospital. Some said that I saved her life.
I was a media darling. Everyone wanted to see Little Jack, all grown up. I leapt through rings of fire at New Jersey Devils hockey games. My Off-Broadway show, Wax on This, sold out in minutes, and I had the distinct honor of leaping over the Olympic Flame at the '92 Games. Mick Jagger started calling me the real “Jumpin Jack Flash,” and it got to my head.
It was no longer about the fans anymore. It was about me, and it was about merch. T-shirts, candlestick holders, sunburn-scented candles… I was a sellout. I fired my agent just because it was on-brand, and my new agent convinced me to get botox to maintain my boyish charm.
By middle age, I was a corporate dog, paying the bills by performing hot coal walks at company retreats and keynote speeches about “the fire within.” I was set for life, but I wanted to stay hot so I started pawning zippo lighters at Burning Man and saying things like “yo, that’s fire” to sound hip.
I’d lost my way, and my personal rock bottom came from the fisticuffs of Smokey The Bear at a forest fire prevention seminar. The Denver Post labeled me the “Candle Boy Burnout” and they weren’t wrong.
I became a sad, crumbly piece of burnt toast, and I've been rehabbing in the Russian tundra ever since. The flames can’t get to me here. I get my warmth from a sheepskin robe and Bombas socks, and spend my time thinking about that boy who was so nimble and so quick.
If I could go back, would I do it all over again? Would I sidestep the candlestick? Would I berate the adults in the room for letting a toddler jump over an open flame? I’m not sure. I’m still finding myself. I’ve spent the last 306 years jumping over various flammable objects, but self-reflective, Jack? He’s just heating up.