Nearly Drowning

Nearly Drowning
by Ashley Steineger

“And then you smiled,” Mother tells me, “with this odd, almost omniscient grin. You knew something we didn’t know. You still do.” 

“Don’t go near the deep end without your floaters!” screamed an adult voice. I plopped down on my watermelon towel to pout, tugging roughly at the folds of my pink tutu bathing suit.

But the pool itself, with its cool blue torso and darker forbidden areas, called to me. With a chlorinated whisper, the pool commanded, “Jump in me. You are meant to run, dance, swim.”

I had never swum long in the deep end without help, but I recall telling my frustrated little body that it was better to try and fail then sit dormant on a watermelon towel and watch the world pass me on. I walked confidently to the pool’s edge and stepped directly into the deep end.

And I sank like a pink tutu-wearing stone.

Thirty years later, I can feel the community pool water on my skin, the tightening of my chest, a weightlessness. Though not a single hint of fear. No panic. It was a divine and peaceful sixty seconds. The pool turned an angelic yellow-white as I prepared for something I didn’t quite understand. A mysterious voice told me not to be afraid. Ancient knowledge flooded my brain, through my innocent soul. I was One with all. I knew.

Just as my body began to go limp, Mother yanked me up into her frantic arms. She hit me on the back, squeezed my cheeks. The other moms gathered around, gasping. I stared back calmly at the community pool, every eye on me, as though I had stopped the whole world by nearly drowning. With an easy smile, I looked lovingly at my mother, and asked for some lemonade.

PHOTO: After nearly drowning (June 1985).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR:  Upon seeing the prompt for the Beach and Pool series, I remembered a story my mother told me years ago about learning how to swim. She showed me an old photograph (attached) and explained how I had almost drowned on numerous occasions because I thought I already knew how to swim. She believes that nearly drowning changed me. I tend to agree with her.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ashley Steineger lives and writes in Raleigh, North Carolina, and is a former psychologist turned freelance writer. Her personal essays recently appeared in The Mighty, an online journal about mental health. She gravitates towards poetry and personal memoir, and is currently working on her second book. When she is not writing, Ashley enjoys fishing, avoiding small talk, and finding beauty in the mundane.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: I am fishing at the Haw River outside the small town of Bynum, North Carolina. It’s my secret spot.