Hydrophobia

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Soft waves hit the ceramic blue tiles, ricocheting smooth ripples back the other way. I admire this from my tiny perch in the lukewarm hot tub, breathing in the deep aroma of chlorine drifting through the air.
Being only four years young, I have yet to embark on the adventures of swimming lessons. My sister closest in age to me is attempting to create a whirlpool in our restricted play area. I long to be a part of the big pool, but I’m not allowed in unless someone older takes me by the hands and guides me through the water. My oldest sister is too busy laughing with her friends and my mom is inconveniently trapped in the corner by all of the other chaperoning mothers.
I rest my chin on the canal-like connection between the two different worlds, reaching my tiny hands to play with the lapping waves. A smile breaks across my face-- I realize I must have a fondness of water. The urge to travel through the turquoise liquid makes me climb out onto the pebble stone and drift in my mother’s direction.
I don’t make it very far. Two of the older girls stop me abruptly to propose a game. They want to swing me, since I’m the lightest, and proceed to throw me in. I protest, claiming that I don’t know how to swim, but they don’t believe someone who only stands two feet tall. They promise not to let go of me, so I hesitantly agree.
I want to feel the adrenaline rushing through my body; although the whole idea of being suspended in the air is terrifying. The shorter girl wraps her hands around my bony ankles, not daring to drop me, while the stockier one holds my wrists like two twigs.
The countdown begins and anxiety swells up, making me consider screaming and writhing in their arms. Going against my instinct, I continue to lie there, dangling like a leaf preparing to fall, trusting them with all of my heart.
One second passes, making me breathless. Two seconds pass, I become hopeless. Three seconds pass. I expect to slow down in momentum and be planted on my own two feet, but all I can think is: they promised.
No forewarning is given. The depths swallow me whole, not even making the slightest of splashes because of my forty-pound frame. My thoughts begin doing somersaults as I struggle to get my head over the horizon. The minute glances of the above world that I can see carry the emotion of happiness, opposing my fear. It isn’t just the thought of drowning that frightens me; I am at a point in my life where I believe that sharks live in every form of water.
I continue paddling and kicking, sucking in water like a vacuum. I’m thinking my imagination is conjuring a savior clad in a purple bathing suit, gliding in to sweep me up, but reality washes over me with relief. I am glad to be close friends with oxygen again, resenting the forced sputtering of dry water out of my lungs. At the moment, I am only able to breathe two words.
“Thank you.”
I sprint to my mom, ignoring the “no running” rule, crying and causing a scene. Everyone looks at me curiously, oblivious to the previous horror. I sit in her lap, ensconcing myself in a towel, shivering from both the cold air pricking at my skin and the fear struck within me.
The party fades to an end with a soft drizzle, yet by the time we are ushered out of the front door, it’s a full-on downpour. My mother takes a quick leave-of-absence to retrieve the car, squeezing my shoulders as she passes.
Her hands seem to relieve all of the stress, but I remain silently still on the porch. I follow the rain as it drops to the concrete and makes a quiet splash, recreating my earlier landing. Right now, in the midst of the soothing splats and the lolling laughter, I decide to never trust water’s disguise again.





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