Too scared to move. Terrified to blink.
I remember brown-haired babies
being christened in kitchen sinks.
The pure water, right from the tap,
the wooden step stool because I was
so small. I am still so small.
The shampoo like sap on my tangled
twig hair. I always had greasy bangs
because I couldn’t ever rinse well.
When dishes piled up, my mother’s
eyes and the soap suds would swell.
Thus began the fear of water.
Silly pool games. We were young,
short-attention-spanned, tired of
the same. Lawn Chair Ladies –
our mothers, trading gossip like we traded
Garbage Pail Kid cards. The roses
are in bloom. They are the crimson guardians
lining the yard. Spin as fast as you can.
See how long you can stand. The last one
will be the winner. The sunglassed
chaperones peep and discuss what to make
for our dinners. I am in a bubble tunnel
and I can see the yellow light above,
then back under me, above me,
then only in my head. This is it.
I knew it then. I couldn’t find my way
to the surface. I am dead.
Then arms of slippery eels, so many
of them. Did I fight them off,
or give into them? Would my friends
ever play this game again? Am I gone?
Is the sun close or is it afraid of them?
Them. My saviors. They rescued me.
The poolside mommies are always
where they need to be. I’m alive.
I inhaled the fresh, chlorinated water.
The air came next and it burned.
I was scolded by the adults
for scaring the hell out of them.
We had to promise never to take
underwater turns again. I listened.
I still smell death in a damp night.
I still hear women sighing,
gonna be just fine. You’re alright.
Thus the reason for the fear of water.
© Jennifer Patino (February 19, 2017)
* Note: I know this isn’t too far back for a true “flashback”, but I found this piece of lost writing in a notebook, so I polished it up to finally be shared.