As a young child, I would walk to school with my older brother. We lived a few houses down from the school, which was the best thing ever because I could sleep in, I could go home for lunch and always play with my legos until the very last minute. I actually think the proximity of that school to our house is the reason I cannot wake up on time no matter how hard I try, that I can never leave for the bus 5 minutes early, and that I have to struggle to be on time for anything.
Anyway, I couldn't have been a day older than five when my brother and I walked to school and passed one of those big oil stains in the street. You know, the ones with the psychedelic colors. As I was walking towards it, my brother yelled "watch out!". I froze. "Don't you know what those are?" he said. "They're where the lightning hit".
He knew that I was terrified of lightning. My dad loved to tell a story of a co-workers' daughter who got struck by lightning in an open field. The story travelled around our neighbourhood so much that to a young boy, it seemed like it could happen to anyone. Even at that age I knew where that co-worker lived. Everyone knew that the white house belonged to the family whose daughter got killed by lightning.
Feeding on my fear, my brother, probably around nine years old, made up this whole theory about how lightning would strike into the street, and the heat of the electric blast would leave those oddly colored stains. Here's the best part, though. He said that the stains would stay charged with electricity for days, and if you stepped on one, you would die.
I remember being really terrified, but oddly intruiged. How could something that looked so nice be deadly? Before he had told me, I actually thought they were remnants of a rainbow. But he was my older brother, so he knew better. From that day forth, walking to school was like walking through a minefield. I guess there was a lot of leaky engines in our neighbourhood. I would walk around them, stare at them, and I was impressed with their power.
I can't remember when I found out that those things were just oil stains from shitty car engines. But the funny thing is, when you truly believed that something could kill you, it's really hard to shake the idea. The thought is instilled into the back of your memory for a long, long time. You might not believe me, but I have never stepped onto an oil stain in the street. Ever. I know it won't kill me, but I won't step on it. It's not a refusal, it's an unconscious thing. I will see one every now and then, and they always remind me of my brother, and the neighbourhood I grew up in. And the old man across from the street who would come out to yell at you if you went near his lawn. And the house around the corner where the guy exploded a grenade into his hand and blew it off. And the bushes where the crazy girl let us watch her pee. And by the time my mind wanders back into the now, I realise I already passed the oil stain. I walked right around it.