I never stepped on cracks.
For the longest time, I would not step on any mark on the floor. Whether it was the split between two slabs, the gaps between cobblestones or the smallest crack on one of those boring gray squares on the sidewalk, I always tiptoed around it, leaped past it or stepped onto the road to avoid it.
One of my earliest memories is of my sister and I walking to school together when I was only five years old. We were walking on the sidewalk and she pointed out a crack to me. My sister loved joking around with me, but little did she know that what she was about to say would alter my daily behavior forever.
“It’s a snake,” she said.
I probably screamed. I hated all cold-blooded creatures. She probably laughed; being six years older than me, she was always laughing at me.
From that day forward, I made sure my short legs took long enough steps to avoid stepping on the snakes that lived in the cracks in the ground. I was convinced that a snake would pop out if I stepped on one.
A year later, it was Halloween and I was in first grade. My teacher began to talk about superstitions, namely black cats. After our teacher talked about how iconic black cats were in autumn, I vaguely remember the topic flying out the door, as she began talking about ladders, shattered mirrors, the number thirteen, and of course — cracks on the floor.
“Step on a crack and break your mother’s back.”
My teacher breezed past this with the smile of someone who was just talking conversationally about something insignificant before proceeding to talk about the origin of Halloween.
I was distraught and panicked at the entirely new information. I loved my mother, and as the know-it-all first grader I was, I knew that a broken back was not good. Once I calmed down, I remember feeling relief wash over me, knowing that my mother’s back was still intact, meaning that neither my sister nor I had ever stepped on a crack. Of course it never occurred to me that, perhaps, the phrase was not exactly the gospel truth.
As the years went on, my sister moved into high school, leaving me, still clinging to my belief that I could not step on a crack, behind. I once confided in her, telling her that I no longer was scared of the snakes, but I could not step on the cracks in the sidewalk. We had to protect our mother. She laughed.
Somewhere in my mind I had to have known that this wasn’t true. Rationally how could my stepping on the floor cause my mother’s back to break? As I reached middle school, I started to realize that my belief was pointless. Superstitions just didn’t make sense. My mom’s back had never broken, and my sister had stepped on cracks. There was no basis for my fear, and I was just being ridiculous.
Back then, I stared at the ground with every step I took, but I look up now. I do the typical whimsical things that teenagers do. I laugh with my friends and take selfies on my phone.
But sometimes, I still avoid the cracks.