Thursday, 12 March 2015

Shocking curiosity

Courtesy of Suat Eman at
     'Whatever you do, never, ever, stick your finger in here' said
      my 11-year-old brother.

Tony, my elder sibling, was standing in our living room with the table lamp in his hand. He was pointing at the opening where the light bulb would go. I was aware that the lamp had been without a bulb (and shade) for some time; each morning, prior to leaving for work, my dad would plug his electric shaver into this socket.

‘Why not?’ I asked.
      ‘Just don’t do it’, said Tony. ‘If you do you’ll get electrocuted.’

When Tony left, and I was alone playing on the carpet with my Lego, I struggled to maintain concentration on building my plastic-brick tower. My gaze repeatedly drifted to the lamp socket. It looked harmless enough; brown plastic casing circling two small holes. And what did ‘electrocuted’ mean? To my 7-year-old mind, anything with the word ‘cute’ in it couldn’t be that bad; my grandmother called me it all the time.

As the morning progressed, my bottom (and plastic tower) shuffled ever nearer to the lamp until I was in touching distance of that two-holed curiosity. Tentatively, as if extending a hand towards a sleeping Rottweiler, my fingers brushed the plastic casing, before snatching them back. Nothing happened. Tony must have been trying to scare me again; one of his favourite pastimes.

I approached the socket a second time, my index finger outstretched. It hovered at the entry, before plunging into the abyss.

My recollection of what happened next is vague and fragmented. I recall a searing vibration shooting along the length of my arm, as if I was clinging to a giant locust. Moments later I was lying on my back, in the middle of our living room, surrounded by Lego bricks, with a whiff of singed flesh in my nostrils.

To this day I remain uncertain as to my big brother’s motive in issuing his warning about that light socket. He knew I was a curious boy who always sought explanations and who was inclined to experiment to find answers. Almost half a century on, when I reminded him of the incident, he claimed no memory of it, adding that, if he said such a thing, it would have been fuelled by a desire to keep his little brother safe. I continue to doubt; after all, a few months earlier he had almost expired after I locked him in a suitcase. Nevertheless, we remain the closest of brothers, perhaps fused in friendship by having both – miraculously - survived our childhoods.