When I was six¼or maybe I was five¼I fell into the deep end of my grandmother’s pool. I had been eating Captain Crunch out of a beige flecked bowl with an orange ring around the rim. I was wearing a bright red terry cloth bathrobe, my favorite. I don’t remember the event, at least not the way my mom tells it. The way she tells it: she screamed when she heard the splash, and everyone frantically jumped from one foot to the other. My uncle - then a life guard, now an alcoholic - jumped in and saved me. My mom cried and everyone was relieved that I was okay. Because of their reactions I never told them what really happened.
I remember the whole thing like you remember your favorite part of a movie. I looked past my cereal bowl at my skinny legs hanging over the edge of the diving board I was sitting on, at the light sparkling off the water. And then, in that brief moment, I wondered¼what would it be like to breath underwater? I didn’t jump, that's the wrong action word. I just sort of scooted forward, slowly, slowly. No one saw me and my slight movements. When I was close enough I decided I could just, scoot the rest of the way off the diving board. Splash. I would breathe underwater.
They jeer as I go by, the assholes that aren’t comfortable in their own skin, taking out what they hate most about themselves on me. I wonder if they would be different if I was different, if I hadn't listened to the idiot that stepped up on some proverbial soapbox and spouted worthless crap about truth and honesty setting me free.
I believed all the nonsense. I was honest and look where it got me. I don’t feel free. Feel more persecuted¼for something I didn’t choose in the first place. Prosecuted for what I just...am.
Yeah, screw you too.
My parents lied to me. Their lies aren’t anything special, they were just the first to do it. It's almost laughable when you get older, the number of people that lie to you when you're a child who believes anything. It's almost laughable now. Almost.
Even my teachers lied to me, lied to all of us¼told us we could be or do anything we wanted. They told me I could be anything. Then, just when I was about to become the “greatest anything”, those same teachers drew me aside, smiled apologetically and told me in soft whispers that I wasn’t good at the anything I wanted.
Imagine being told you’re Superman, Wonder Woman, or any superhero really. And you buy it- hook, line and sinker. Imagine walking around in the face of danger, in the face of harsh words thrown at you and thinking you’re immortal. You smile and wink tauntingly with confidence. Imagine being drawn back from the edge of greatness when a knife actually draws blood and searing pain from your supposed superhuman flesh.
(But wait! Wait...I’m a superhero!)
My parents told me they’d love me no matter what, but I don’t think they took into consideration the ‘no matter what’ clause. I don't think many parents do. They attend a therapy group to deal with me now; to deal with what 'no matter what' became.
My father gives me awkward hugs. Because of his group. He never hugged me before, not really. The hugs feel like an obligation that neither of us likes but partake in because we don’t know how to explain that we don’t want to hug, not over this, not now. The hugs are making us more distant.
My mom stands up for political issues. She wears buttons, marches in parades and tells her friends about me. She’s turned me into something to stand for. Yet, she seems to have forgotten about me.
When I call she stutters endlessly. About new family conflicts, about the weather, about the newest disease she thinks she dying from. She drones on about the bake sale she and her support group are having in order to raise money to get the newest self-help-best-seller to give a speech. She talks so that I don’t have time to. So that she doesn’t really have to stand behind the ‘no matter what’ she threw at me all those years ago.
It was the light that bounced off the water, the way the blue and yellow bent and curved. It was so beautiful, so ethereal. I wanted to touch it, make it my own. I thought I could. So I inched closer and closer and I don't even remember the splash.
They stare and sneer, noses raised up in the air, eyes wide with expectation and judgement, foreheads wrinkled. I don’t even think I look that different. My tattoo isn’t visible, no piercings on my face, no raw and trendy hair cut that draws attention. Still, they look at me and they know what I am, what they have branded me, what they make me feel like when they look down their noses.
I used to think about moving. Thought about it a lot. Used to think that I should run away, to some utopian idealistic society where I might find solace. Then I went to visit a few friends who had ventured out into the great unknown, beyond the barriers of the state boarder that acts like an invisible force field keeping us all in our place.
I went to see what it was like, this different world. But my friends, they weren’t happy. They didn't find the Avalon they’d been looking for. Some of them put on a good show of false hope and satisfaction. But their misery was still there, crudely covered up. I went out with them, walked down the streets of their new town with them, laughed about how much I loved the green hair they sported and the industrial ideals they had adopted. Still, I saw it, the people passing them by, that same look of disapproval.
Moving hasn’t changed a damn thing.
You know that commercial. The one that’s supposed to be all intense and dramatic because not only is it in black and white and a little girl dressed as a ballerina states, “when I grow up I want to be a junkie.”¼the commercial is some ploy to keep kids off drugs by stating that no one starts out wanting to be that way. That’s me. My life has become a tacky commercial.
I find it funny that no one ever asks me if I planned on this. I thought I was going to get a chance at the American Dream. House, kids, car, dog, job. Now I’m informed I can’t do that. I’m evil, unclean. No one wants to know that honesty wasn't the best thing I did for myself.
I wake up most mornings disappointed. Feel like I’m trying to run away from my own skin. No matter where I go, no matter which mirror I look in, no matter who I’m with, it will still be there - the reality of who I am is an unwanted shadow. Following me.
Sometimes I think of Peter Pan and wish I could rip it off, the shadow I have to bear, and leave it in someone else’s room. I’d never return to look for it. I’d never go back under the veil of night and beg to have it sewn back on.
I get ready for my day, dressing meticulously, pretending that kind of control is enough. I laugh with my friends, have a good moment, try to appreciate something outside my little bubble of worries, and go to bed wondering if I have to wake up tomorrow.
When I watched the water glowing blue in my grandmother’s pool, and as I inched closer and closer to the edge, I thought for the briefest of moments that I could do it. Breath underwater without anyone knowing. I just never thought anyone would see me, but they do. They see me and they know. Even if I didn't hear the splash, someone else will.
Sometimes I think I’ll walk up to them, the deluded masses, and wrap my arms around them, hugging them close to me. Sometimes I can picture myself doing such a thing so clearly. I think - I’ll hug them tight, my eyes closed. I’ll wrap my arms around them until they are broken. Until they realize I’m approachable. I’m not a disease, and we are not different from each other.
But hugging them would be like trying to breathe, underwater.
I tried to breath under water but it didn't work, hardly ever does. All I saw was a flourish of distorted figures floating high above me, the beauty was gone, and I was dragged down by my favorite tattered red terry cloth robe. Unable to breathe at all.