im afraid of dark and deep water. a pool, an ocean, a lake. it doesn't matter.
the lake here is 90 feet deep. it sparkles sapphire blue in the summer months and by fall turns a dark gray.
absence of the sun does that to everything, the colors and life go right out of both things living and static. plants, people, lakes.
i'd been looking at that lake ever since it began freezing over and wanting to cross it. all my life i've pushed myself to and from the things that i fear most.
i was 7 years old and lived in a cottage with the sea behind it and a bay in front and i was afraid of that bay. it was dark and there was seagrass flowing through it bottom and top.
every day in the summer i'd skirt around where it curved in a 180 just to get to the small pier on the other side where i could use the rusty hooks and pieces of line left behind by the fishermen.
then one day i decided to make myself get in the water and cross that bay. i got my inflatable ring and put it around myself and i walked out into it.
everything about it filled me with terror and revulsion, my toes sinking into the muddy silt, to the seagrasses which seemed to curl around my bare legs in every direction.
i could have stopped but i went on. soon i found myself floating in those loathsome grasses and seaweed, i refused to turn back and began kicking my way across.
all the while i was thinking, why have i done this? this is not what i want to do, no it was the last thing that i wanted to do, so why would i chose to do it? i had no answer then and i have long since found that there'd be many, many times i'd put myself in the last position in my life that i'd wanted to be in and ask myself the same questions, but like then as now, there never is or was to be an answer.
i knew in my mind that if i could just get to the other side and out of that mess that everything would be ok again. once i reached the point of no return. that point midway where you can't go back but only forward and panic crushed me and i stopped swimming. i lay there in the arms of my ring and sobbed. i could feel those grasses tangling themselves around me and tugging and knew that under me lay meters of that awful black water. have you ever been so frozen by indecision over a predicament that you cannot act? it was like that. all the horrors of what i'd done to myself traveled up and down the walls of my puny 7 year old mind. i had to do something. i had to go on because no one was coming to get me.
there was no mommy to save me, and i told myself that i'd just have to get my own self out out of my shit so i began kicking my way to the far shore and all the while tears running down my grubby face. and i made it. and i don't remember feeling exultation, relief, nothing. i just tore all of the horrid weeds off myself and stood there looking back across the water, then i picked up my ring and walked the curve back home.
today i was sitting outside looking at the lake again when i got up and put on my coat and boots and went to go cross it.
i didn't tell you that we'd already tried at my excited urging, and when we walked out a dozen feet or so we could hear the ice crackling and gurgling. we turned back.
that was supposed to be that with me and the lake. i was not going near it again with the intention of stepping on it. my interest was over. i told myself that at least i'd walked a few feet onto it and let that be that. but lately that wasn't enough. i went down and began crossing it. it was very quiet and there was a wind from the west making waves in the layer of snow on top. i walked out 20 or so feet and stopped. i bent down and brushed the snow aside and saw the black ice i was standing on. i stood back up and turned and looked around me and every house lining the shore was deserted, just like that day in my 7 year old life, different place, different face, just me and the dark water again.
i walked on and on at a steady and calm pace and with every step i listened and waited for the ice to crack under me, and i saw in my minds eye the ice opening up and myself falling into that water and i wasn't afraid. i wasn't afraid of the abruptness of which i'd fall in, or that i wouldn't be able to pull myself out, or that again there was no mommy to save me or no one at all, and i wasn't afraid of leaving this life. i don't know if all that would have changed had the ice broke and had i the misfortune or fortune to sink to the bottom of that lake, but it didn't break or say a word.
on and on i walked till i reached the point of no return and out there the only thing i heard was the wind blowing and the little crystals of snow being lifted and scattered into new formations. i stood there for a long time and finally i sat down. the wind picked up and played with my long gray scarf and i took out the little piece of kleenex that i'd carried with me and wiped my runny nose. then i brushed away the snow so that i could see the water down there under the clear ice, hello darkness my old friend. such a beautiful song. before i left i took a keepsake photo with me.