the good oil

Walking back yesterday morning from picking up my laundry, I caught a whiff of motor oil coming through the open door of the local garage and it triggered a memory. Huntly, 1966 or 67. I had a holiday job at Geo. Smith & Sons, the local Ford dealers, with a showroom plus workshop plus service station down at the bottom of the hill on the main drag. Lord knows how I got it. I used to pump petrol, detail cars, do odd jobs around the place. The pay was derisory. Something like thirteen or fourteen dollars for a full, that is, forty hour, week. First time I'd worked proper hours, only my second job ever, after the paper run. One of the things I had to do was fill up the bottles of oil that stood on racks next to the bowsers. You decanted it out of big drums in a little dark shed out the back. For some reason that remains obscure to me, I became erotically obsessed with one of the lighter grades of oil. Castrol, perhaps. The smell of it. The texture. Its viscosity ... I must have been in the full hormonal flush of adolescence. It was around this time that my nipples swelled up and became sensitive, even sore, to the touch. This troubled me immensely but I never told anyone about it. I thought perhaps I was turning into a girl. Or something. Many years later I did tell a friend about this and he said he'd had the same experience. If only I'd know that it could happen to others as well! Anyway, the oil had something to do with this strangely occluded awakening. I used to pour it over my hands and then rub them slinkily together, there in that dark shed. Never did anything else that I recall. There was no other, as they say, issue. No guilt, either, though I wonder now how I would have explained myself if Geo. Smith or his brother had walked in on me. After massaging my hands together for a while, I'd wipe them off on a piece of cotton waste and take the filled-up bottles of oil out to the racks by the petrol pumps. That was the extent of this peculiar obsession, which lasted for the couple of weeks I worked there and then disappeared forever. Motor oil does nothing for me now.

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