Monday, September 28, 2009

#4 Flammable

I have always liked the smell of gasoline.

My earliest memory of gasoline is a warm sunny day. I was about three years old. We lived in a suburb outside of Seattle. It was a time when streets were coated with tar and where there were pot holes in the street - these became tar pools.

I had wandered out of the house wearing panties and a little sun dress. I was attracted to the slick shimmering surface of a tar pool in the street. I stepped in and felt the warm tar slowly gush through my toes. Then I sat down and thoroughly bathed myself in the black ooze.

A neighbor found me and ran to get my mother who pulled me out of the grip of the pit. Holding me at arms length she whirled me around towards our house. Stopping in the yard she plopped me on a picnic table while the gathered adults discussed the next course of action.

A woman put a metal tub on the table while a man positioned himself to pour gasoline into it. After the gasoline was in the tub, I was stripped of my clothes and the man took off his shirt. Holding me close to his body he dipped his free hand into the gasoline and ran his fingers through my hair from scalp to end stripping the strands of tar. Then my hair was shampooed and towel dried. He dipped a small rag into the gas and wiped my face and neck using short strokes while constantly changing to a clean piece of rag. When he was done exploring my ears my face was then washed clean.

I was sitting on his knee now turned around and facing towards my mother as the man dipped another rag into the gasoline and began stroking the tar off my arms towards my little fingers. I don’t remember being afraid. I remember the firm stroking. Where I was wearing clothes I was not too messy. When at last my legs were being cleaned I watched intently as elusive tar spots were firmly smoothed down and out from between my toes.

Another metal tub was brought out to the yard and put on the grass. I had to stand in this tub and get rinsed off with a hose while my mother soaped me down with Ivory. It bubbled away the gasoline smell.

Even now when I am held close and stroked, I recall as a small child I was once flammable.

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