Suddenly and shockingly, I was on my hands and knees on the blunt buffalo grass, feeling the coarse rough edges under my palms and coughing the water out of my body. The air burned as I sucked it into my lungs and coughed the water out. He begged me “Don’t tell! Don’t tell on me,” as the younger children stood by in wide-eyed shock.
I could hear the voice of his mother on the balcony, telling my mother how she worried about her son. How he had been suspended from school and could soon be expelled.
It had taken so short a time to nearly die that they had not even noticed.
Air and fury fueled my muscles. I uncoiled like a sprinter leaving the starting blocks and thundered up the stairs to the woman who had never failed to defend me – to the woman who had faced down a whole community when I had been made a pariah.
“He nearly killed me! He held my head under the water until the bubbles stopped,” I said.
Image: Swimming pool by Bad-girl, DeviantArt
“Don’t be ridiculous, Anne Marie. Go downstairs and play nicely.”
“I told you to go downstairs and play nicely.”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I stood rooted to the spot for what seemed like eternity. My mother glared at me. I turned, feet dragging.
He was waiting for me at the bottom of the stairs.
“You’re safe. They don’t believe me.”
I went back and sat in the pool. Betrayed and nearly dead.
I was floating. The leaves on the gum tree slipped past. The top of the tree disappeared beneath me.
“This is not so bad,” I thought. The screaming desperation in my muscles evaporated. Bliss replaced it. “I am not sure where I am going… but I’m not scared anymore… and I am definitely not dead. Why am I not dead?”
I thought when I died I would go to sleep. Didn’t someone tell me that dying was just going to sleep? Where was the dark oblivion where I would not remember or be remembered? Where was the sleep I would not awake from? Somehow, I was definitely still here, and I was going… somewhere.
I had a sense of myself, still in the pool. Long blonde hair fanning out in the water, head submerged and neck locked between his knees. I was leaving me behind and going… somewhere. Where am I going? Over there?
Image: Angel to fly (III) by Dreamyana, DeviantArt
When he grabbed me and forced me under the water, I had fought to be free. At first in play, thinking that at any moment he would let me go and I would tell him it wasn’t funny… that he wasn’t funny. And then I realised he wasn’t playing. I fought with all my strength. I fought with everything I had. I fought for my life.
I thrashed and clawed at his legs with small desperate hands as the oxygen bust from my lungs in despairing bubbles. But my eight year old body was no match for his ten year old brutality, and I knew I was losing. There was no air left in my body. The bubbles stopped.
“I am going to die.” Fear left, replaced by certainty and acceptance.
I floated… in the water… and into the air. I left me behind.
“So this is what it’s like to die.” I said. I was peaceful. I was surprised.