The Agoraphobia of a Foolish Child
by Kristina England

Some people learn how to swim by doing. I was the person you push over the edge of a cliff and hope she learns to fly. That’s what my babysitter’s boyfriend did — he pushed me into her pool and, even with floats, I sank like an anchor, didn’t lift my head for air.

My babysitter must have thought I hit my head, because she pulled me out. My eyes were iron. I gave them both my most stabbing look, then went back to the house, away from the bugs, away from the gross, green grass, the worried voices, the chattering of birds, anything that spoke earth and uncertainty.

Later, as an adult, I finally looked at the water and said, pretty. I was thirty and swam into the clear waters of Mexico. I never turned back to the little girl, even though she had held onto me for so long, gripping, pulling, trying her best to drown.

PHOTO: “Splash” by Luke Peterson, used by permission.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: It seems fitting to write this piece so long after the event. I hated the outdoors for the first 30 years of my life and then, thankfully, woke up and smelled the flowers. I am now an avid hiker, sailor, and biker, and this memory is one of many that show how paralyzed I was by my own fears of the dangerous and uncomfortable. Although swimming might seem like a small risk in the scheme of things, it was possibly one of the earliest signs of an anxiety that held onto me for too long.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kristina England lives, bikes, and sails in Worcester, Massachusetts. Her poetry, fiction, and nonfiction have been published in several magazines, including Gargoyle, Muddy River Poetry Review, and Story Shack. She can be followed on facebook or twitter.