"Karen, Karen, it's time to wake up." My mother's soft voice woke me from my pleasant dreams. As I shook off the last remnants of sleep, I remembered. It was finally my fifth birthday! I jumped out of bed and put on my hot pink bathing suit with the blue ruffles. I was going to have a pool party. Little did I know I was going to be truly frightened for the first time in my life.August 26, 1988 was a hot, hot day, the kind when everybody screams for relief from the sweltering heat and the air filled with the annoying buzz of mosquitoes. The temperature had already climbed into the high 90's by 9 a.m. I couldn't wait for the guests to arrive so I could cool myself in the pool. By 11 a.m., most had arrived and were as eager as I to jump in. Their faces glistened with beads of sweat as they greeted me and handed me beautifully wrapped presents.Everywhere, children were laughing. They were playing games in and out of the water. Some were running around in their brightly colored bathing suits. Others were splashing each other and playing ball.The sparkling pool looked like a good way to escape from the hot weather, so I decided I was going to learn how to swim. First, I took a couple of tentative steps. Then, I began to lift my arms and legs. Soon enough, I was starting to swim. Just when I was beginning to get the hang of it, I felt two rocks crash down on my shoulders, pushing me into the water. I realized they were not rocks. They were hands. Up above me, children and parents carried on, unaware of the child under the water. I was trying not to open my mouth to take a breath of air. I felt so helpless and vulnerable. Those hands felt so big and I felt so small. Suddenly, the clear, blue water did not look so beautiful anymore.This took place for several seconds or even a minute, but it felt like forever. During that time, I felt suffocated. The world had closed in on me. I continued to struggle up, away from those big hands pushing me down. They were like weights on top of me - weights I couldn't get rid of. I felt as if I were a bug pinned to a wall - so tiny and insignificant that nobody realized it was there or cared.A thousand thoughts ran through my head. No, they were not flashbacks of my life. I was thinking of a way out. That was the first time I had ever been truly scared. I hated not knowing whom those hands belonged to. I wished I could have called out, but I couldn't. I wondered if I would be stuck under water indefinitely or until whoever was tired of playing their game.The pressure kept on building and building until I couldn't take it anymore. I had to take a breath. When I did, water came rushing into me, stinging my nose and the insides of my body. My body hurt so much, as if there were walls pushing in on me.Slowly, all laughter and shouting dimmed. The only sound was the hammering of my heart. Finally, when I couldn't take it anymore, those cruel hands let me go. I went floating back into the sunshine. The world in which I had not even begun to live yet had been given back to me.I don't remember how long I was standing there, coughing and gasping for air. Water was streaming down my face. I felt on fire. It was as though every painful breath would be my last.Behind me, I heard laughter. I spun around and saw that it was Cindy. Cindy had always hated me but, at that moment, I hated her so much more. I wanted to scream, tear her hair out by the roots, and wipe that ugly smile off her face. I couldn't because she was nine and I was five. The world felt so unfair. Nobody saw the incident. Even if they had, they probably wouldn't take it for anything more than a childish prank.Some people might ask me how I remember those details from something that happened a decade ago. But I went through such a traumatic event that I will forever have those memories ingrained. You might think that I made too big of a deal out of this, or that it is time to forgive and forget. I do not think so. I will forever hold her responsible. I will not forgive her and I certainly will never forget it. fl
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.