Below

Water
Photo by Danish Puri on Unsplash

My mother swims in the dark. The water is inkspill black. I stand on the shore and think of the creatures below, watching her.  

My mother submerges and I am alone. My feet are cold, and I count the seconds. One, two, three. I step into the water, and I swim to the spot where she disappeared. I look down.

I see her hair. It is stringy seaweed, reaching up to the surface, to me.  

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My son doesn’t fear the water. He runs at the ocean edge, throwing his body into the surf, letting the waves crash over him. He laughs.

He doesn’t know to fear things that can pull him under. Sorrow. Love. Tides.

He disappears into the foam.

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I submerge to find my mother. I open my eyes and see green.

When I find her face in the murky gloom, her eyes are open. She smiles, reaches, puts her hand on my cheek.

We surface together and I cry. Only swimming, she says, but I’d seen a corpse, a ghost of my mother, moving and alive and dead. Gone.

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My son tells me to listen. He goes below the surface and screams. I hear a muffled yell, the bubbles bursting out of his mouth, sound weaving into the roar of the waves.

He tells me to listen again. He thinks I cannot hear him. He doesn’t know that a scream is never silent. His mouth opens again and again.

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Each time I look down, I see her hands floating, her hair tangled and swirling, the dark outline of her body sinking.

I remind myself that below the surface she is holding her breath. I remind myself that her feet are churning water deep below, where it’s too dark for my weak eyes to see. I remind myself that though the water can pull her under, she always finds her way back to the surface. She always finds her way back to me. 

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