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.