water memory

Winter again. My blood and skin had begun to thicken and numb. I felt the need for my body to move because so much about my life had become static. I needed to feel alive, to feel as though there were something beyond the walls, beyond every few hours changing diapers and nursing an infant who showed little sign of any significant development except that he’d sometimes smile and laugh at funny sounds.

It was the same every time I tried. I’d arrive at the pool before the others hoping to find the tiny faculty locker room empty and to snag a free lane. Between tall mirrors I’d examine a changed body, once again ordinary but for a ropey red scar that had replaced my gravid belly. As I’d pad past on the deck I’d feel faces peering up at me from the pool. For a minute, I’d stand at the end of my lane taking it all in: the sharp stink of chlorine, the grayish light, the hard echo of voices against tile. I’d dive in letting the cool wet cocoon me from fingertips to feet. My second home of sorts, the pool was a familiar place void of surprises, only the expected slosh of water cresting over my shoulders. My blood began to move under the drag of a loose suit which had been stretched by my pregnant body or perhaps had simply lost its elasticity from sitting too long unused in the bottom of a bag. By the second or third lap my skin would adapt to the tepid water so that I could lose myself in it. As I flipped and churned, my water memory recalled swimming pregnant, when one day things were ripe and fine and the next, an unrecognizable mess. I’d slither along sadly, thinking about Calvin still wondering what it was that I might have done to have gotten into this fix. Sobs caused me to stop and gasp for breath. Impossible to carry on, I’d struggle to the wall, wrestle my way onto the deck then steal away to the showers where, for half an hour, I’d douse myself with water as hot as I could stand—if I could stand—and hope no one would hear.

Every few months I got back into the pool and tried to make it stick, but the sense of loss was the only thing that stuck, like a record skipping in place carving a deeper groove with each revolution. The thing I had lost was something I’d never truly had: a healthy baby. But I’d also lost the promise of what parenthood might bring: joy, happiness, hope for a bright future full of endless possibility. It was becoming clear that I’d lost the chance of hearing my child speak, telling me what hurts or that he loves me, of seeing him learn to read and write or to cut snowflakes out of paper, or to run and swim and climb trees. I’d never watch him ride a bicycle, catch a fish, sing in a choir, draw a stick-figure family next to a square house with a red door and chimney, or throw a ball, sit on the porch talking with his dad about the world, roast a marshmallow, blow out a birthday candle, hold hands with a sweetheart, wish on a falling star, make music or kiss me goodnight. I’d lost the chance to see my boy play a sport, go off to college, travel the world, find an apartment, perhaps get married and have kids of his own, our grandchildren, on whom we'd dote.

When Calvin was born he’d flicked the first domino in an endless maze of ivory tiles branching off in every ruinous direction, each one representing a lost hope, each one striking the next striking the next striking the next, each one impossible to catch before it topples into another.

—Excerpt from a work in progress

Photo by Michael Kolster


  1. That's some powerful writing there. I'm waiting for more with baited breath.

    1. thanks, eee. i've got a wayz to go. on chapter seven out of at least twice that many, i think. slowly but surely. lets catch up. xoxoox

    2. It's moving writing, and I especially responded to the dominoes. Keep up the work on your memoir...it will be worth it--to you, to all of us.