Gasping for Air

June 7, 2008
By Jennifer Truong, Tigard, OR

Drips of sweat ran down the side of my face. The air was moist and humid; it was the type of weather that drained all the energy out of you. The heat from the hot grey cement was burning the bottom on my feet. I was 4 feet 1 inch tall and waiting for my mother to gather all the equipment for our trip to New Jersey. My brothers, Tommy and Davis were already in the car playing Pokémon on their Gameboy while my younger sister Jessica, was tailed behind my frantic mother who was packing up food and searching for sunscreen so that we wouldn’t get burned or get cancer. My mother was never on direct time. She was always running late and had followed the “Asian time,” which meant if she says she going to be there in one hour, she’ll arrive in two or three hours. We were in a hurry and I got frustrated with my mother. I stood in the front door, tapping my right food vigorously, yelling at my mom to hurry up. We finally left the house 30 minutes later.

The car ride from Connecticut to New Jersey wasn’t the most comfortable or pleasant ride of my life. I sat for two hours, smooched in the middle of the back seat along with Jessica with my older brothers on each end of the window sides. I could barely move but there was nothing I could do about the situation. Throughout the car ride, my siblings and I dozed off on each others shoulders or head; depending on our size.

I woke up with a wet spot on the right side of my cheek. I looked up and saw a circular wet spot on the shoulder of my brother’s shirt. I looked up at him slowly, knowing I was guilty and gave him a childish giggle that seemed devilish. He didn’t seem to care too much but he made me promise to get him soda once we arrived to my dad’s friend’s house for the party. We walked into the single level house that was decorative and neat. I was so glad the room was filled with cool air. The wife of my father’s friend greeted us with kindness and asked us if we wanted to go swimming in their backyard. I was so excited that I stripped the top layer of my clothing and ran to the backyard after asking my mom if it was okay for me to do so.

The backyard smelled delicious! As I looked towards the right side of my hand I saw a fairly large man grilling marinated chicken and towards the left side there was a young woman setting up the table for the party. The object in front of my eyes was what I was most excited for, the clear blue water of the swimming pool. At the time, I did not know how to swim but I was learning. I thought if I stood by the long noodle that always floated beside me then I was golden. Both Tommy and Davis explored the surroundings. They ran around and hung on the driving board and sat on the inflated chairs. Jessica on the other hand, was scared of the water and stood on the edge of the pool, sticking her tiny feet in the water every once in a while. We were all pressuring her to jump into the water but she was too scared to even let the water reach half her body. It was reasonable, she was only five.

I was the opposite of Jessica. I had just learned how to doggy paddle and I thought I was the coolest thing around. I begged Jessica to come join me but she refused. Instead, she gave me a dirty look since I was bragging on how much fun I was having while swimming. Once everyone was settled, my mom told me not to leave my corner but I was having too much fun to even think about what my mom had told me. At that time and age, I did not know that the water level got steeper as I moved towards the other end of the pool. I kept on paddling until I could no longer reach the ground. I began to panic and did not know what was going on. The water had over passed my head and I could not take in anymore air. I took a deep breath and opened my eyes. I saw bubbles rising out of my mouth. I tried to reach for the side of the pool so I can catch a breath but it was just too far away for my little arms to reach. My heart was racing and I could no longer see. I blacked out.

Luckily, Tommy was cruising on the inflated chair and saw the ends of my long black hair floating on top of the water. He tried to grab me up by pulling on my hair and the strap of my bathing suit but he had failed. I was too heavy for him to lift and he was not a great swimmer to dive in and rescue me. Tommy yelled out to the people at the party for help but no one had heard him except the children. The kids surrounded the edges of the pool looking at Tommy pointing and screaming with franticness. Davis had sprinted out of the pool and ran towards my father. My dad quickly dove into the pool and lifted me onto the surface. My mother, who was inside the house cooking, ran directly to me pushing anyone who stood in her way. A rush of coldness ran through her body.

After a while, I woke up and the whole incident did not even come to mind. All I could remember was my arm reaching in front of me, gasping for air. My mother sat in front on me holding me in her arms with a face I had never seen before. The moment was indiscernible. Once everyone knew I was going to be all right, they continued on with their conversation and meals. From that day forth, my mother never let me out of her sight until I got older and could handle myself.

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