Content Warning: Drowning.
Relating stories of my childhood is fundamentally difficult. Partly because it’s so strange that when I describe it, people fill in a more normal version of it. When I say ‘church,’ they think of their local Anglican or Baptist. When I say ‘oppressive’ church, they think of maybe an idea of their Catholic church or something off a TV show. When I say cult they think of compounds and robes. It wasn’t like that, but if I talk about how it was, what you imagine is wrong in other ways.
The other thing is that I have a bunch of false memories. Your memories of your childhood are often messed up in order, you have weird details, your brain was forming. It’s natural. But in my case, I know there are a host of memories I have that literally cannot have happened, and these last through to my late teen years. Some very specific memories definitely happened, but I know, for example, I never was at some events where I remembered myself, because my brain tried to stitch me into things I saw in books.
But there are some things that I remember and I know happened.
I know, for example, I drowned.
Our school was across from a public pool. We had swimming lessons in the summer, where the whole school would pile across in the middle of the day – kindergarten through to year twelve – and change into our swimming clothes (with specific rules about it, but nothing that seems weird in hindsight), and then, we were instructed by Mrs █████ on how to swim. I don’t remember if it was my first time or not, but it was the first time she took all of us down to the end of the large pool, and told us to get in.
All the other kids my age jumped in, one after another. I didn’t.
I couldn’t swim, after all.
I have a memory of a narrative; I know I told her I couldn’t, I know I asked her not to, and I know that she admonished me for being disobedient. Those memories are vague.
Then I have the very strong memory of Mrs █████ turning to ████ and telling him to put me in the pool. ████ was an eleventh grader at the time; the school’s largest boy, physically fit, and even had friends outside of the school. ████ grabbed me, saying “Yes, Miss.”
My next memory was being on my back, soaking wet, coughing up water, as I tried to breathe. It was later. I didn’t have to go into the pool.
But I did have to apologise to Mrs █████.
For years, the other students made fun of me for it. For years, I was mocked for my inability to swim, and how pathetically I needed resuscitating and how I should be so grateful for being saved.
as best I can piece together,
four or five,
the first time I drowned.