Day 2: This is Water

Yesterday, a mist from the fountain in the courtyard of the theatre building hit my face as I walked past, and my first instinct was to dodge it.

But a split second later, I thought otherwise, remembering how letting the raindrops hit my skin the other day made me feel alive. (And that nobody cares if my hair gets frizzy, except for me.)

So I let the soft mist grace my face as I took in the sunset in stride.

This is my element.

Two days ago I jumped in the ocean with abandon.

I had the impulse as my husband and I drove past Dockweiler State Beach after spending the afternoon reading on the Manhattan Beach pier.

“I want to jump in the ocean with all my clothes on right now,” I said.
“But it’s 60 degrees outside,” my husband said.
“I don’t care! Let’s go! I want to feel myself in my body — I want to feel alive!”

After some convincing, we parked and I stripped down to my sports bra and jeans. Barefoot, we walked — we ran down the incline onto the sand in the middle of January.

I ran and ran to keep warm and finally ran straight into the waves.

This is water.

When I was one-and-a-half-years old, I almost drowned in a small pond in my backyard. My mom’s told me the story countless times:

She was blow-drying her hair in the master bedroom, which had French doors out to the backyard. She kept them open to keep an eye on me while I played around outside.

I was fascinated by the pond, which didn’t have a gate around it, by the way. The pool did, but not this tiny three-foot pond.

Maybe I was a little narcissist. Or maybe I liked the fish swimming down there. But all of a sudden, my mom looked out and I wasn’t there. She says she looked in the pond and didn’t see me.

I used to play a game where I’d hide in a closet and make my parents come find me. So my mom ran from closet to closet in the house, opening them up, frantically searching for me. But to no avail.

She finally came back outside to check if I was in the pond again, and says she found me face up and blue.

She jumped in, grabbed me out and started patting me on the back. I was gargling and gagging, so she turned me upside down and water came flowing out of my mouth, like a fountain.

My mother, now hysterical, ran to the across-the-street-neighbor’s house screaming for them to call an ambulance. In her hysteria, she upset their dogs, and one of them bit my mom in the ass (which she claims she still has a scar from).

Finally, the ambulance came and took me and my mom to the hospital. She told me the medic was rude to her and asked her to stop incessantly asking if I’d be okay …

Now, this was back before everybody had cell phones (probably 1992), so my mom called my dad’s law office, but he was in court. So she told his secretary the message, that I’d almost drowned and was at such-and-such hospital. “Come immediately.” Well, by the time that message went through the court clerks to my dad, it was, “Your daughter drowned. Come immediately.”

When my dad showed up at the hospital, I was still unconscious. He cradled me, and I woke up in his arms.

My mom got straight to asking the doctors if there were any tests they could run, did I sustain any brain damage? Nope — no tests. Just go on home.

My mother was shocked and completely unsatisfied. So she made up a test of her own. She stood across from me and started quickly running in place (a little copy-cat game we’d play), and I did the same thing back.

I’d survived.

I have no recollection of this on my own — and sometimes I think, maybe all my memories up until that point, sense or otherwise, were wiped away. I’ll never know.

All I know is, I’ve never been afraid of water. And my room sat adjacent to that pond my entire life, the trickling of the small waterfall through my window lulling me to sleep.