My Dad, who set aside two hours every Sunday for family safety time, instilled the fear in me. We were driving home from church in a pounding Southern rainstorm when, stopping at a red light, he shouted "Kids! What would you do right now if a lightning bolt hit the car?"(more)
My first thought was "Die?" Knowing my Dad as I did, I figured that would be the wrong answer. So I waited for Ryan to say something. He did.
"I would run out of the car and get inside someone's garage!" Ryan announced proudly. "Then you would be dead," my father said, shaking his head sadly. The light turned green. As he drove, he explained in graphic detail how the electricity from the lightning bolt, which would have been perfectly harmless if we stayed inside the car, would now run through Ryan's head and out of his foot into the ground, paralyzing and killing him instantly like the squirrels that chewed through our power wires every now and again and fell off, stiff as cardboard cutouts, after a sharp snap and a little puff of smoke.
My Dad went on to say something about human bodies as circuits and electricity seeking water. In my seven-year-old brain I was just one puddle away from a terrifying death by lightning bolt with nowhere to hide.
These lightning bolts strike at the worst times. As I'm sitting on the bus, with nothing in my bag. When I'm watching TV. Sometimes, when I'm in the shower. They blind me for a moment, maybe two, and then they vanish. If I'm not prepared, I'll lose them forever.(more)
But, I only think I've lost them forever. If I'd bother to open my eyes, look around me, I'd see they're scattered everywhere. Absolutely everywhere. Maybe I don't look on purpose. Maybe I'm afraid of them all, piling up around me, gathering dust. I think I like them better that way, obscured by a haze of filth. They really are too difficult to see, anyway.
So, I'll sit on the bus and let them pass me by. I'll let the television blind me. If I'm lucky, the shower will wash them away. These lightning bolts only bring me misery. If I try real hard, I can avoid them altogether. Honestly, they scare the hell out of me.
I always knew it was a fast car. That's because it had a lightning bolt painted on each side. Yeah man, that meant it could practically fly.
Which, ironically, is what it ended up doing. Off that cliff. With Dad still in it. I imagine she flew beautifully.(more) The landing probably less so.
I don't know if I should feel ashamed for admitting this, but after all these years I actually have a clearer image burned into my memory of that lightning bolt than I do of Dad's face. But that insignia held promise for me--of a life of adventure, excitement... or possibility. Dad, well he was just a cautionary tale. The ultimate one, as it turned out.
I think Mum was pretty surprised how upset I was at his funeral. She knew I hadn't had the easiest start in life, thanks to his drinking, and I think she was automatically projecting her own feelings of relief and hope for a new beginning onto me.
But I knew what I had lost when I saw that coffin lowered into the earth: inspiration, although my 6-year-old self wouldn't have called it that.
But none of that matters now. I've made up for that loss. Here I am, tearing down the coast highway at 150mph in my very own fire-engine-red Aston Martin V8 Vantage. Nothing can hold me back any more. Not with these fucking cool lightning bolts painted on the sides. (less)