The Scuba Tank / Mike Piskur

I reached up toward a sun-shaped knob and managed to turn it a bit with my stubby fingers. The big metal sausage looking thing scream-hissed right in my face. I got frightened and ran to mama, and Uncle Ralph said, "Awww, run to your mama," as he stood up to turn the knob the other way. Uncle Ralph liked to scuba dive, or at least he owned the gear. He probably had to pawn the stuff one some subsequent rainy day.

The oxygen tank was an ominous silver cylinder, as big as a horse. It released a bit of pressurized air and scared the hell out of me. I don't recall how old I was when that happened, possibly three or four. In my memory it seems as though my perspective was low to the ground, certainly less than four feet high, about the appropriate stature for that age. But I don't know about the veracity of the memory, aside from the associated emotion. That feeling of fear permanently embedded itself in my bones, yet I assume other details like the color of the oxygen tank and the shade of brown the trim inside the house had been stained and my uncle's reaction were mutable and in question.

Or perhaps that snippet is completely accurate, and the fear also etched the memory in my brain. What is memory if not a feeling associated with a particular time, place, or perception? That hissing oxygen tank threw me into the world of self-awareness, awareness that others were talking about me. The beginning of self-consciousness. Perhaps self-consciousness and the ability to remember things are one in the same, or that we only begin to store memories as we become aware of ourselves.