Monday, May 14, 2012

life preservers.

I can't see faces anymore, just outlines of bodies swaying to the music. Still, I kick further because I'm not scared yet.

The water, any water is always more terrifying to me when I'm not submerged in it. It seems to me like a suggestion of a threat, an idea that gently points to danger, 'You can't control this." Yet, when I'm up to my neck, I almost always feel swaddled. Carried. Held onto. Isn't it funny that we call them bodies of water? I guess so much of their anatomy does personify human action, at least in my mind.

I kick further and further, waiting for someone to notice how brave I am, how far I've gone, what distance I've put between myself and the rocky cliffs of shore.

"You should be scared, " I think to them. "What if something happened to me now? Could you save me in time?"

Do we sometimes do things just to make people prove their love for us? Just so they try to keep us safe? Just to test and make sure.

There's a flat boulder perched on the shore. It's where we're allowed to congregate now that we're here for round two. Going to the Mansion is a privilege we've earned with our blistered feet and sore shoulders. Those trays get heavier all the time.

The boulder my friends rest upon is suspended several feet above the water at an angle no man could have willingly produced. Somehow precarious rings a little dull for the illustration. Still, here is where we make our descent on sunny afternoons into the relief of the lake's beckoning waves. It's the kind of jump that you have to steel yourself for mentally. The kind of jump for which you take deep breaths and count down, even as an adult-aged person.

The boulder itself is now shewn with beer cans, bottles, blankets, towels, discarded clothes, sun screen, and an inner tube. An ironic nod to water wings shaped like fishies. Or a non-ironic nod for those of us who are scared of the water. Despite the strong pull to be on an island surrounded on all sides by water and waves, a surprising amount of people here are actually afraid of the lake. And despite the swelling boat traffic and basic goal of getting drunk by most people who visit the island, very few people seem to drown here.

My friend Mary and I grabbed a bottle of wine one night and took off for the beach alone, a long walk from the trusty porch lamp that soaked the yard of our summer home when the dim moon couldn't shed enough light. It was a long walk made short by the wine we passed between us as we strode quick and sure in the dark. We reached and shore and stood silent like a prayer for a moment, taking in the dark expanse no one claimed but us. We floated and talked and marveled at how good the water felt on our limbs, how nice it felt to be so unselfconscious in the act of swimming. How lovely the lack of light. And then, thoroughly wrinkled, we wrapped our shivering bodies in towels and hitchhiked with some guys from the campsite going back to town, giggling in the back of a rusty pickup truck as we bounced our way back home.

It's nights like that which serve to snag like a splinter on my memory as I try to sand it down, simplify it as a time either bad or good. It catches just enough that neither quites fits- how could a place that produced such a perfect night be all bad?  Besides, it's a place I loved with reverence for a time. A home of sorts, if not forever. How could I ever simplify something so complex?

But Mary wasn't there that day for my test, and if she had, likely she would have been conducting it with me, along with the few other friends I've kept from my summers on the rock.

And then I remember the people I knew, their distance-muffled laughter and shouting above The Moon and Antarctica coming from portable speakers, blissfully unconcerned with the growing distance between my rhythmic movement and the boulder on which they stood. It was then that I realized the faces didn't matter so much as the human proximity. Aside from a few strong female bonds, roles could be filled by nearly anyone, so long as they were willing to read the lines with enough bravado. When I was gone, as I would be a few short weeks from that day, someone else would be fucking my boyfriend, coaxing drink orders out of windblown tourists, and drinking straight from the bottle on the boulder with my friends.

The realization made me feel so much smaller than treading water out in the middle of a constantly moving great lake ever did.

I'm a strong swimmer, so I never really had to test the allegiance of the people standing ashore to the drum of my pulse, a fact for which I'm sure, even in their ignorance, they're infinitely grateful.

As am I.

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