What feels like a very long time ago, I went to a friends cottage. Near to the end of the dirt road there was a little beach, with a dock you could jump off of.
I remember running as fast as I could to the end of the dock and jumping off, cutting downwards. Our little whippet like preteen bodies would glide through the water, slicing straight down to the very bottom. Your body would hit the warm water, cut through it, your hair would rush upwards into the warmth, your feet would sink down into the cold. The water spread up over you, green and murky, sliding like a summery mantle.
The last thing you would feel would be your feet plunging into the bottom of the lake – mushy sand filled with algae and reeds, sharp shells and flat rocks. Depending on how hard you jumped, how straight you held your arms to the sky you could sink knee deep in it, flailing and grasping your way back to the surface
No matter how many times I jumped into the water that summer, I never got over the feeling of panic as my feet sucked into the lake bed. Gulping water, staring up at the green tinted sun, flailing my arms and pushing against soft, mucky ground to get back to the surface; I would undergo the same torturously slow swim back to the sun each time. My kicks were disjointed and misdirected as I tried to kick and scrape muck off my legs at the same time, sucking in water and distress with every movement. Each time as the warm water washed back over the top of my head, my shoulders, my hips, and finally my toes I would be greeted by the same beautiful laughing, gasping wet face of my friend beside me, treading water.
My hands, my toes, my legs felt covered in mud this week. I felt sucked in and flailing, gulping water and sobbing in the back of my throat as I tried to make it work. Running like mad, pitchers of beer, uncomfortable shoes, unpaid bills – going and going and going. I felt shells scraping my feet, the coldest, hardest mud sucking at my toes, the tightest sharpest reeds wrapping around my calves. I used to think that if I was ever drowning, I would just start drinking until it was dry and somebody saved me. I couldn’t drink fast enough this week.
Wednesday night, I pushed open the door to the kitchen at the pub one last time. I grabbed the last pitcher of beer, and I waded through the mud to the last table. I looked up, and around the last table in the thickest mud with the most reeds and the sharpest shells, were my friends. And they were laughing, and they were reaching to me. Cold hands wet with cold beer grasped cold forearms wet with wiped tears, and they pulled. And for the first time since I got here, I felt the warm water. On my shoulders, on my back, on my hips and on my toes as I sat down and happily remembered how to tread water.