The first time I drowned was at night. Rebecca and I had only been dating for a month and I wanted to show her that I could be spontaneous so we climbed the fence at the public pool. The air was cool but the excitement and nervousness kept our blood warm and rushing through our veins. Her silhouette was outlined by the full moon as she stood on the diving board. I treaded water below her even though I hadn’t taken the time to teach myself how to swim all that well.
The pavement along the side of the pool scraped my back as she dragged me out of the water, but I didn’t feel it. The bright, white light from the moon illuminated her beautiful, yellow hair as she pushed the water from my lungs. It wasn’t a conscious thought, and I didn’t realize it until much later, but that was the moment I fell in love with her.
“Thank you,” I said.
The second time I drowned was at a Memorial Day barbecue with my extended family. Rebecca had moved out, but we hadn’t signed the divorce papers. In fact, we could still be considered newlyweds, but the pregnancy was further along than our marriage. Filling my lungs with water turned out to be a great way to avoid the awkward questions and monotonous silence from family members that never really knew me all that well in the first place.
Afterwards, when they dragged me across the sand and pounded on my chest until the water erupted from my mouth and nose, I felt refreshed. My eyes drank in the blue sky and yellow sun with a fresh thirst. Colors were deeper. Scents stronger. I dusted myself off, shook my wet hair, and smiled up at my Uncle Bob.
“Thank you,” I said.
The last time I drowned was in the winter. We were ice skating, me and Andy. I taught him how to slide to a stop, throwing shaved ice in front of himself like a frozen shower. He was halfway though his fourth year of elementary school and his best friend had just moved away. I tried to explain that this was, in fact, a great lesson but he was still too close to it. He needed some time.
The lake was large so the wind had no impediment and picked up a respectable speed, but we didn’t need gloves or hats. Maybe I should have expected the ice to crack, but it still took me by surprise.
The water bit into me and I wouldn’t have been able to yell out even if I wanted to. The lake consumed me. Sunlight filtered through the ice and left the lake in a silent haze. After a moment, I didn’t feel the water. I couldn’t hear Andy yelling above me. I waited until it was time to become the lake. And when the joining happened, I wasn’t afraid.
Andy would need some time to understand, but again, I knew it was an important lesson. My only hope was that maybe, one day, he himself could drown and understand the beauty of the undeniable connectivity of life.
Josh Rank graduated from the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee and has since had stories published in The Missing Slate, The Feathertale Review, Hypertext Magazine, The Oddville Press, The Satirist, Corvus Review, Inwood Indiana, and elsewhere. He currently eats sandwiches in Nashville, TN. More ramblings can be found at joshrank.com.
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Photo by Jacob Walti