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A little less than a happy high
The first time
I forget the stories I've told you.

I remember climbing along the shelf of the rock wall that ran the length of the lakeshore at my grandparents' camp. It was late autumn and it had been cold enough to bundle up in my too-big navy blue parka, slick orange liner, coyote-fur trim. It had been cold enough for the lake to have frozen with a paper-thin hint of ice. The dock hadn't been taken in yet, a retangular structure that jutted out into ice-still water. Even then, I thought that it looked out of place. A barrier.

I was exploring. There was ice on the shelf where I was climbing and I slipped. Heavy felt-lined snow boots (why was I wearing them?) broke through the surface. Cold. Cold. I couldn't walk on water. I struggled to pull myself back up, but my hands couldn't get a grip on the ice covering the stone. Before I knew, I had slipped entirely into the water. I remember the splashing and the crackle-tinkle of the ice breaking around me as I thrashed. Just give me something to hold onto, please... The ice was a living thing then, but cold, unthinking.

Would it matter if I told you this before?

My feet didn't touch the bottom. I panicked. The world stopped moving and I was able to see everything that was happening both from within me and without. Endless possibilities flashed in an instant, most leading to an untimely dissolution. I had too many clothes on. The water was too cold. I had never learned how to swim.

I saw the ramp for the dock and I willed myself to move. I remembered my dog swimming, her head held proudly above the water as her legs ran beneath. I moved like her, pushing myself forward. The ramp was too high. I couldn't get a grip, and I was too cold and too weak to pull myself out. I remembered that I had mittens on. I remember him standing there on the dock, watching. My father. My father wasn't helping me. Betrayer.

I was yelling something, but no sound came. I pushed forward in the water again. Probing. Going deeper hoping that there was some place where the dock was lower in the water or that I might stand and rest. It was puzzle. A maze. A cold, unforgiving maze that wished for nothing more than to consume me. And he, father, minotaur, watched as I tired myself out with my running and my fear.

I was three years old.

I rounded the end of the dock in the deepest water and I knew I was exhausted. Time began again, all possibilities sucked suddenly into a sole-(soul-?)driving now. I saw it through the tunnel of my broken perception. One chance now, else I would sink beneath. The boat landing. Swimming again, weaker, colder, cursing the coyote fur (was it fake?) that kept getting in the way. It's funny the things you think about. Death, coyote fur, time, crinkling ice.


It would have been easier to have given up right then. I pulled myself up the boat landing because I had been filled with hate for him. I wanted him to suffer the rest of his life knowing that I had been stronger than his indifference.

Coughing, shivering, pain. I can inhale water when my reality shifts, but the spasms coming down are soul-wracking. I have no idea what happened afterwards.

I really don't know if I've told you this. Either way, I'm sorry.
8 comments or Leave a comment
wisdom_seeker From: wisdom_seeker Date: April 20th, 2003 08:53 am (UTC) (Link)

No, you've never told me

I'm sorry, too.
And angry at that man who watched you struggle.
And, once again, in awe of the inherent strength and power inside you.
komos From: komos Date: April 21st, 2003 06:06 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: No, you've never told me

I have difficulty accepting accolades for things like this. I survived because I had to, and then never really managed to get past the tangled emotions to which this gave birth. In a way, my anger at him poisoned our relationship long before our estrangement fifteen years later.
shutupbetsy From: shutupbetsy Date: April 20th, 2003 11:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
Something about this reminds me of the book Cavedweller.

komos From: komos Date: April 21st, 2003 06:00 pm (UTC) (Link)
I don't know that I've read it, though my curiosity is piqued. Can you say more?
shutupbetsy From: shutupbetsy Date: April 21st, 2003 06:35 pm (UTC) (Link)

There was something about your tone in that entry that reminded me of the way the main character in this book is sort of stark and mournful in her conceptions. I'm not sure, it was just a flash impression, I'd be curious to know what you thought of the book. The same woman wrote Bastard Out of Carolina, which is slightly more well-known.
komos From: komos Date: April 22nd, 2003 06:45 am (UTC) (Link)
I don't know that I was going for stark and mournful, but this was one of the first pieces I've written in a long time that grew on its own and not from some preconception that I had. There may have been some unconscious principle guiding it. I had been thinking about the shifts in my perception of reality and I just felt like I needed to share this. To be honest, I was actually in a really good mood when I wrote, which may have helped deal with the residual anger and fear.

I will check the book out. I'm always looking for new things to read, and I think I have some credit at B&N I can use. I'll get back to you?
futurenurselady From: futurenurselady Date: April 21st, 2003 02:23 pm (UTC) (Link)
People should have to qualify for a license before they can have children, period. Some people should just never be parents. I feel a great sympathy for you. I know this pain...

komos From: komos Date: April 21st, 2003 05:56 pm (UTC) (Link)

Be well

I had guessed. Don't you find it strange dealing with the legacy of it all. The years where I "fell down the stairs" a lot lent much to creating the person I am now, and that has its good and bad points.
8 comments or Leave a comment