I’ve never been able to learn to swim much on account of the fact that I never had the chance.
When I was still in diapers my father abducted my youngest two siblings and myself from my mother, and fled from Lunenburg, Nova Scotia to Winnipeg, Manitoba. He was on the run on account of raping my oldest sister. She was ten and he told the police that she fell on the crossbar of her bike, so that’s why she was bleeding “down there.” Later on, he mixed up the story and said mothers new boyfriend “did it.” I’m not sure the police noticed the mix up on account that it was a domestic dispute at the time and in the 70’s the police didn’t bother themselves much with “domestic issues.”
I don’t recall much of that trip but I sure remember a nice lady taking us three to the pool. (My sister told me later my father raped that lady too. She was a full three years older than me and she sure remembers more.) I wore myself a bikini and I remember that I had a belly and decided to take a dip in a rather large mud puddle on the way.
When we got to the pool it was crystal clear and I’m sure I had ever seen water so blue and so clear in all my little life. I sat on the edge dancing my feet — real playful like. That nice lady warned me not to be so close, on account of the fact that if I fell in, I’d be sure to drown. I recall thinking that I’d be just fine one moment, and the next moment, I was sunk.
Those dangling, darling little legs had a life of their own and took me right down under that deep, crystal clear, blue water.
It was so silent there.
I recall catching a glimpse of her through the surface of the water and someone told me she jumped in clothes and all to save me — I’m not sure I remember that. But I sure do remember that slow silent sink — that happened so fast.
The past few days have born some semblance to that time well over forty years ago — this time my much longer legs are dangling on the edge of an ocean called Betrayal and a sea named Sorrow. The water is less clear now, muddied by the riptide of ruin. Acrid accusations hang in the air; the fog of falsehood is disorienting; the undertow of trauma pulls me down slow.
I sank into what can only be understood as a pool of panic in a sea of complicity. At times it is a full time job to ride out waves of panic and paralysis in the flint face of appalling and unethical power. These past few days have been such a time as this.
Like many abuse survivors for whom closure is like grasping a bar of soap in an ocean — I seem to go through a regular cycle with periodic peaceful pauses.
Anyone of these phases can be subject to a slow sink.
B stayed close to me. We walked in the woods and soaked in the crisp cool. We breathed in the fragrant forest floor. We drove. We listened. We lunched. We loved. We napped. And still, I slowly sank.
Disconnected and disembodied I dragged my underwater self around the neighbourhood to walk our still buoyant dog. I waved to the girl in the playground. She waves back from the top of the climber. I blow her a kiss, she looks around to see which of her friends is looking, and then blows me one back. She turns from me, her long legs stretched in the horizon where the climber meets the sky. Though I’m sinking, she is free to climb higher because I am here.
I turn the corner, a little closer to home and to the surface of my own skin and I see the boy and the man playing basketball. The boy is all bones and skin in that long yawning space between boyhood and manhood. They grin and I start to swim. They to can be, in part, because of me.
So often for survivors, the difference between sinking and swimming is having something or someone to hold onto; some driftwood of hope; some twig of truth.
Yesterday — these three were mine.