Monday, April 23, 2012
Monday, April 2, 2012
***I can't recall the prompt that this essay was inspired by so I suppose we can call this the wild card. As I'm posting these one pagers, I realize that a lot of my essays are based on my childhood and family and home. Perhaps because my book is about other people and work and my professional self, I sub-consciously find it refreshing to narrow in on very personal memories. Or maybe I'm just conceited. Who knows. But I've never considered myself to have good long-term memory and yet, writing, has helped find memories I thought I lost. It's been interesting to explore this type of memory exercise.
I drowned once. For a few seconds. I was five. My older sister was nine. My father was thirty-two. My Abuelita was house sitting for one of her clients she cleaned for. She invited my sister and I to the house, told my dad that we could have some fun in the pool. There was a slide. I was sold. We lived in an apartment and the sprinklers were what we knew of summer fun. A large pool not populated by the entire community was beyond our dreams.
A whole pool?!
I was overjoyed.
I was pissing my neon biker shorts.
As my Abulea and my dad sat inside in the kitchen, Karla and I ran to the pool. Karla immediately headed to the slide and did a freefall into the deep end. I, on the other hand, took my big toe and placed on the first step leading into the shallow end of the pool; I shrieked and giggled. I dared to put my whole right foot onto the step and Karla teased me to just get it over with. I was never easily swayed, even as a child. Firm and stubborn, I did the same toe-then-foot process with my left side and was at waist level when I saw Karla make another slip down the slide. She had both arms up in the air, her hair like a flying kite following behind her. Her wide-open grin was infectious. I splashed the water, applauding her joy, the slide, and the fact that we had it all to ourselves.
I’ve never been one to watch from the sidelines. I had my eye on the slide and I wanted to feel the same exhilaration my sister did. There was no way she was going to hog all the wild giggling to herself. I stood from the shallow end and waddled my way to the slide, marking my path with moist footprints. Karla yelled reassuring things to me as she already saw a mixed expression of fear and excitement grow on my face.
“You’ll be fine Georgi! It’s so much FUN!”
I smiled back at my sister and began to climb the three steps to the top. There was not much time that passed before I was at the top and then I was at the bottom – of the pool.
I don’t remember sliding. I do remember hitting the water and realizing that all my kicking was getting me nowhere near the top. I needed to breathe; I knew that much. I wanted to cry but the water wouldn’t let me. I didn’t know how I could breath as my arms moved aimlessly around my sides hoping to push me upwards. Nothing.
I closed my eyes. I didn’t want to be here anymore. If I closed my eyes for a little while maybe I’ll be at the top, I thought.
I felt his arm wrap around my waist: large and strong. I was pulled away and I felt the sun and felt the air in my mouth. I gasped and coughed.
The next thing I remembered was my father bent over laying out his one-dollar bills and his fives on the concrete next to the pool. The sun was still bright and I could see his clothes were already close to being dry. I remembered seeing my father, delicately placing out his money, his hunched back facing me and feeling incredibly guilty.
I got Daddy’s money wet.
He’s going to be so mad.
After the last bill was arranged, he turned to me and put his hands on my shoulders. We locked eyes and he told me in Spanish that I needed to be careful - that he loved me and I needed to take care of myself because he loved me.
Don’t do foolish things, he urged me, think about what you can and cannot do. Don’t be angry if you can’t do what your sister can do yet. She’s older and soon I would be old too, but no matter what, you take care of yourself and understand when something is not right - that it doesn’t feel right.
He kissed me, and I hugged him.
Looking over his shoulders, I hoped his money wouldn’t be ruined.