3.31.2014 Journal Prompt

Photo by Stephen Shore
Photo by Stephen Shore

March 31, 2014: She couldn’t swim.

4 Replies to “3.31.2014 Journal Prompt”

  1. Sometimes she goes to the pool. The same one for years. The one she had gone to as a child. And she’s be there first some days and they know her there and they say her good morning and they call her by name. ‘Good morning, Anna.’ She pays at the desk and smiles and gives them back their bright good morning; then she goes to get changed.

    The air is cold at first and the fine hairs on her gooseflesh skin stand to attention. And the small sounds she makes are made bigger in the small cubicle where she undresses, like whispers said in a crowded place when there is a sudden quiet. Her arms touch the walls and her breath comes short and quick. The unfastening of zippers or the untying of laces and the movement of cotton or wool against her arms or her legs, all this she hears. And her shoes as she slips out of them, and the slap of her feet on the tiled floor.

    Anna tucks her hair into a tight rubber cap. It’s the rule. And she locks her clothes into a box fixed to the wall and the key, attached to a blue rubber band, she wears about her wrist. Some days she is alone in the pool, except for the girl with the whistle who is called Maisie and she’s a student and being a lifeguard is a way of paying her way. Anna steps down into the water, small steps, not because it is cold, but because she is frightened. Each time it is the same.

    And as her toes break the skin of clear blue, she is taken instantly back to a day so far off it should be a softer and easier memory. Instantly back to a day when she was small enough she could walk under her father’s legs without ducking her head and she wore inflatable rings around her arms and she was not to go into the big pool because she could not swim. And there was a day that left its mark on her, the day she returns to in memory.

    She recalls standing by the water’s edge and a great noise buffeting her ears for the pool was busy. She was watching one girl in particular, pretty as a mermaid and she was wading out to the deeper water. Maybe Anna was calling her back. Then the girl was out of her depth and Anna watched for her coming to the surface, hoping she would, hoping still though the memory is fixed and cannot be changed, and time stretched thin as soap bubbles blown through a ring, stretched fit to bursting. And Anna wanted to scream out loud and to say to the lifeguard that he should blow his whistle.

    It was later when they pulled the pretty girl from the water. People had left the water and stood around in shocked groups and wrapped in brightly coloured towels, standing like figures in a painting by Giotto. The girl was limp and heavy, like a landed fish, and her hair matted like old wool and spilling water on the pool edge. They laid her down and someone pressed her chest and water rose like words and fell from her open mouth, but words need breath and so they were never heard or understood. They pulled a blanket over her face and they carried her away, three of them, moving like one awkward creature.

    Anna, steps down into the water, down and down; and she bends her knees and she ducks her head beneath the surface. And she listens to the strange quiet that is there, even when the pool is busy. And she thinks she hears the words that the mermaid spoke, hears their liquid song, and their long ago. And she stays under the water till her lungs hurt with holding breath and a rising panic overtakes her, then she lifts her head and pulls in deep and ballooning breath.

    Anna does not swim for she cannot and will not.

  2. I like this….even though it was difficult to read…not because of the writing, but because of the subject matter. I don’t think it needs that very last sentence, though….

  3. Thanks again Judith. I think you might be right about that last line; it was the line I started with and so I felt it had to be there, but maybe now it is done I could and should let that line go.

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