Public Pools

I never realized how triggering public pools are until my son and partner started going to the pool on a weekly basis. I realized it has been a long long time since I have been in a public pool, and that I probably have been avoiding them subconsciously.

When I was 10 or 11 years old (time gets fuzzy in my childhood) my dad used to take me to an indoor public pool every Sunday after church. I used to love swimming. I never felt more excited than when I was in the water. I remember the positive feelings it gave me. The way I imagined myself as a mermaid, graceful underneath the liquid. I was very well developed for my age. I had already grown breasts and my body was chubby–that in-between stage before all of the hormones leveled out and my height caught up. I hated being in a bathing suit because my dad would often comment about my body, but I loved swimming. I felt lightweight and not as awkward as I felt on land.

Every Sunday we swam at the pool. Usually, my dad kept to himself and swam in the lap pool while I played in the swallow end. Sometimes, though, he would tell me to go over to the deep end so I could practice  diving.

I hated diving. I hated how my dad was so insistent that I learned how to do it. I was always afraid of hitting my head on the bottom of the water. I hated how he pressured me and bullied me into doing it. I hated that I had not other choice.

Then something happened during one of our Sundays at the pool. We were swimming as usual, and my dad was doing his usual thing–insisting that I dive–he swam close to me, telling me again and again to do it. I can’t remember everything that happened after that–as if I had blocked it out-but I think I got upset because he wanted me to dive into the pool and I didn’t want to. I got frustrated and started to cry- then I remember a woman in the pool yelling at him. She called him a “son of a bitch” and he ordered me to get out of the pool. I obeyed, but nervously took too long in the dressing room as my father called me to hurry up so we could leave.

Then he grabbed my hand and we rushed passed the front desk, while the clerk shouted, demanded that we stay. For my dad, this kind of situation wasn’t uncommon; he often rubbed people the wrong way, but I felt uneasy as the day went on. I felt like I had done something wrong. I knew something had happened, but I didn’t know what it was.

Late that night, long after I had been asleep, I was awoken at my father’s house by a police officer. They led me away and questioned me about what had happened that day at the pool. They said the it had been reported that my father had molested me. At the time, and to this day I have no recollection of anything like that happening, but I can’t remember a lot from my childhood. My dad was not a reliable narrator, and I often felt like my reality was not “real” when I was with him because he observed things so differently. I do know that at the time I was very clear that I did not experience that, and the police officers badgered me for hours to admit what had happened. Like my dad bullying me into diving into the pool all those times.

Every time we have gone to the pool this month I have felt uneasy. Scared to swim. To move in the water. Too scared of what others see. Whether they will observe something about me I don’t. I feel sick when the swampy smell hits my nostrils.

Maybe this is the reason why.

 

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I Come From…

I come  from the space between pain and growth

I come from the sharp inhale before a scream;

The desire to fight against odds–

Always pushing the stones ahead of me.

I come from heavy. From deep and from hard.

From the cracks in the sidewalk that flowers emerge from

I come from empty fields in the winter, waiting for spring

I come from the wetness of hope. The need to plant seeds that may never sprout.

I come from movement. Always moving. Standing still is the first step in my self destruction.

I come from sewing up wounds that may never heal, but shimmer in the sunlight.

I come from the shards of my mother’s silence. The stories she spoke in whispers. I come  from grandmothers who were half venom and half saccharine.

I come from a father who’s struggles shaped me awkward and bent. Who’s words made me hollow and ready for anything.

I come from possibile outcomes and probably disappointment. But still here, I wait for something better. Something stronger. Something sturdy enough to hold onto in this reality of rushing river. The pull of the current.

I am the ocean. Unpredictable at times. Destructive by nature. Waves that smash and change the landscape in a single rush.

I am the sand; small particles that were once too large to fathom

Always changing.

Always changing.

Dreams

Nights have been hard lately.

I either dream about someone I love telling me how much they DON’T love me

Or I dream about getting drunk on rum.

I haven’t had a drink in 10 months, but I still feel like I have a hangover.

October

When the season changes to Fall, I fall too. No matter how I try to prepare, it still catches me off guard every year.

I always loved this time of year. Halloween is my favorite holiday. Fall is crisp and fiery and cold. I love the symbolism that surrounds the holiday. The acknowledgement of letting go.

October is the start of the season of mourning.

The first time a rape was burned into memory was in October. A few weeks later on Halloween, I remember somehow ending up wearing the same outfit I was raped in when Matt, Lee and I celebrated in Castro Street. I think perhaps I was trying to celebrate the death of something I didn’t know had been killed yet.

I don’t think about this rape  too often anymore. I have relived it enough times performing “The mourning after” over the years. Resurrected it into art. Made the pain into something else. My body remembers though. It aches. I am overwhelmed with feelings of sinking…of drowning.

I miscarried in October too. At the start of the month I was told by the doctor that the baby’s heart stopped beating…but I had to wait for my body to “let it go” on it’s own. For 3 weeks I held a dead baby inside my body, crying for no reason at the slightest of things.

Finally, on Halloween the “small birth” happened.

At the time, it was the worst physical pain I had ever felt.

I was alone when it happened.

October reminds me to be alone. That ultimately, I go through it all alone. That lonely is natural. That breaking is normal. That life goes into hiding, and this is the season for dying.

I am mourning now. Still mourning the parts of myself I have lost. Mourning the emptiness I feel. How my body feels numb all season as a way to protect itself. I hate feeling this way. I don’t want to feel this way. I struggle with coming to terms with the fact that maybe yes, all of the rest of my life, it will always be this way.

I am waiting for this winter. When the transition to stillness completes. When I can hide and keep it all to myself again.

Right now I don’t feel like being quiet. The sun is still shinning here, and I am trying to find some warmth in all of this.

 

This is why I write

to unfold the electrical mat of my nervous system

the pieces of me

tucked in secret dark spots

hidden and hungry.

My body is nothing but nerves. I burn at the slightest touch

I react at the smallest word

I feel everything

as if my skin no longer protected

my precious softness

my mollusk organs

all too vulnerable.

When i was young

I wished for a hard shell

I wished for larger teeth

and sharper claws

but all I have is these nerves

that beg

“speak up”

Speak up

and this is why

through this fire

I walk with a pen

why I stand

in a spotlight

shaking

The only time I can forget the ache

is when I take it

and turn it

into something beautiful.