At eleven, quite suddenly, my mother had to move us out of the condo we had spent the last six years in, the only six years I could recall of my life to that point. We weren’t allowed to take very much- mold was the issue- and just as quickly as I had cried my way out the front door, I found myself in a small home only one road away from the shore.
Mom said she wanted something peaceful. That’s a mother for you- in the midst of abject chaos, using money we didn’t have to escape an enemy we didn’t even know of, she found a way to sweep off the dark clutter and declare a calm. She worked hard to make it seem like an adventure, not a hardship. Living off the day-old bakery bread and blow up mattresses made us “thrifty”, the “outings” to the laundry mat were something to get excited for.
But, of course, the beach was our playground, and if we were quiet enough at night, we could hear the roaring of the sea. And that was a magic, no qualifications or reasoning needed. We were somewhere magical.
It was the same thinking that had pulled me through my own bad patches- still does now, probably always will. I’ve been asthmatic since before I can even recall, a common but brutal ailment that’s left me groping for inhalers and pleading for air on many, many occasions.
I was a very imaginative kid, though. I wouldn’t let myself think of myself as someone “sick”, as someone that “needed” anything extra to survive. I knew cancer and diabetes and sometimes even the plain flu were a lot worse than what I was going through, so I never felt proper to wallow in what I had. Instead of being sad or angry I, like my mother, got creative.
Air didn’t seem to be my friend; breathing didn’t seem to be my forte. So, okay. I told myself that, simply, it wasn’t what I was meant to do.
I grew up in the age of the mermaid: H20, Aquamarine, even Ariel wasn’t yet considered a vintage princess. The idea was enchanting, and I took it. The story I held in myself for years, the story I wouldn’t give up until I was in high school, was that I was really a mermaid. I was meant for the water, not the land. Being here for so long was such a feat in itself, it seemed amazing that I only had the occasional wheezing fits.
And who’s to tell me that it wasn’t really true? When I was eleven years old, when I took brief refuge in a beach town while my mother secretly worried if we’d make it through, I would spend most every day in the Great Blue. I was such a strong swimmer, that was something nobody could contest, and I reveled in cutting through waters as seemingly native to me as my own hands and eyes. There, it may as well have been real: