Happy Friday, the 13th! I was going to do another Ode to Jason post, but I wanted to share a little personal somethin somethin with you guys.
I used to live on the water. Not the ocean – no, nothing that luxurious – just on a little lake in the middle of nowhere. We had a rickety old dock and everything. I used to count down the days to spring, because once the water warmed up enough, I could start my day with a swim. The lake was small but deep. It’d claimed more than its fair share of sunglasses and fish hooks over the years. There was nothing in it more than a few photo-worthy trout.
There was a little island a kilometer out. It was more of a sand bar, really. It had nothing but a tiny abandoned boat house and a fire pit. I swam out to it every morning.
It became such a routine that I never really worried about swimming alone. Not until the first time I felt them.
It was a Saturday morning. I got out of the house before my mom woke up. We weren’t getting along so I didn’t want to start my morning off with another screaming match. I could only take so many comments about my shitty attitude before I snapped.
I dove off our dock, the water welcoming me in it’s cold embrace. I shivered as bubbles frothed over my skin. I took one, two, three strokes through the murky, cool water before breaking the surface. I slid into freestyle and kept my head down. I’d hear any boats before they got within decapitation distance.
I was almost at the island when something brushed my ankle. I instinctively kicked at it, not wanting to get my feet tangled in seaweed (lakeweed?). Iron hands locked around my ankles and before I could even gasp in surprise, they tugged me down. The strange thing was that they didn’t pull me completely under the water.
My face was just above water. I could breathe but water lapped in my mouth, causing me to panic. I was drowning, but just barely. I struggled to get a halfway decent breath and dove under the surface.
Hands the color of snow were wrapped around my ankles. Pale arms disappeared into the inky depths. I clawed at the hands and they released me just as the corners of my vision began to blur.
I made it onto the island and stayed there until I waved down a passing boat.
I didn’t go into the lake for weeks.
When I did go back in, I made my sister swim out with me. Nothing happened. And nothing happened again for years.
This time, I was graduated and living on my own. I had a shitty place I shared with two other girls. But it didn’t include parents breathing down our backs and I was still near the water.
I’d just broken up with my on-again, off-again boyfriend. I hadn’t left the house in a week. Hadn’t showered. Ate like shit. Drank too much. So I went for a swim.
Not even ten minutes in, the hands returned. Again, they tugged me down. Again, I struggled to breathe, not quite drowning but terrified.
I had my son six years later. I went to the pool – lakes were off limits after the last time – and changed into my swim suit. I had baby weight to lose and I needed to get out of the house. I couldn’t be in the same room as my husband without bickering. Stress. Bills. Crying kid. Hormones. I needed a break. I thought I’d be safe. I was in a pool, after all.
It was empty aside from the lifeguard. Choline clung to the air. The fluorescent lights had been switched off since kids weren’t allowed at the pool after 9. Only the pool lights stayed on, bathing everything in a hazy, green glow.
I dove in at the deep end. I swam, losing myself in the repetitiveness and blessed silence. Somehow, the hands found me. No matter how much I grew up and changed, they managed to find me after all these years. I clawed at them, frantic for air, until they released me.
I finally told someone about them. If they can find me in the town pool, then what was next? My bath tub? My shower? A puddle?
Apparently the hands are more common than I thought. They may be quietly lurking in the shadows, waiting for something like childbirth to surface. For some, they’ve always been hiding in the corner of their eye. A constant, well-known companion.
I have something that keeps them away. I tried going without it just a few weeks ago. I felt safe, even after a couple days. Safe enough to swim.
But the hands – the ice cold hands – swooped in with a vengeance. It took me a week just to shower again.
I just wanted to tell you about them, in case they grab you too. You’re not alone.