notes on navigation:

 (photo by  monica mai )

(photo by monica mai)

I have this recurring dream in which I am five and still learning to navigate the water. There was a vacation home in Florida my family & I stayed in nearly every summer, sweltering in the middle of July and with so many mosquitoes that we blistered and bled from the bites. A three-minute walk away from the home was the community pool, and the days we did not go to Disney World we went there. The pool was shallow—the furthest end only four-feet deep—but if I tread over, arms flailing gracelessly despite their floats, my chest would submerge into the water, then my neck, then my head, then gone.


Sometimes my dad took time away working on his laptop to join in at the pool, and he liked to play with me this game: first, he'd lift me above his head, like a sort of prized possession, the sequins of my swimsuit glimmering in the afternoon sun; then he'd swing his arms in a motion similar to that of a roller coaster—in other words, raising me slowly & steadily, with a sudden drop—but catching me right before I fell under. He'd do this a few times—these false drops—but when I least expected it, he didn't catch me. A violent splash. I heard his muted laughter as I plunged beneath the water. 


Do you know what the bottom is like? It is dark & heavy & I cannot see anything nor hear anything, and I thrash about, paralyzed by the chlorine in my eyes & water in my ears. In real life, always, however, my dad swoops down to return us both to the surface, where my senses reemerge and it is daylight again. Nothing has changed. He tells me that it is just a game, he will not desert me at the bottom, he won’t let me drown. 


But in dreams, my dad is not there. I wake up in the middle of the night, flailing helplessly.