heather l. garcia
Agnes peered down.
Looking out over the rim of tears that was threatening to jump ship, but hadn’t broken rank just yet.
Her knuckles were tense and white, and then relaxed and loose. Rocking back and forth on the heels of the scraped and scarred light brown leather boots. Elbows extending and flexing, bringing the small of her back away from and towards the dried out planks that buried grass blade sized splinters of sun bleached wood into her teeny tiny fingers every time she pushed or pulled.
Her nose itched. But, she wasn’t ready to let go yet. If even for a second.
The tears were retreating. Fall back Troops!
She rolled her head back to face the sky and let the warm autumn sun warm her windblown cheeks. Her golden brown, messy curls played in the wind around her shoulders.
She dangled one of those mistreated leather booted legs over the edge and watched her shadow in the water below respond respectively.
The river ran straight up for more than a few miles. Either side was cozened up to the bank with trees that, in Agnes’ mind, were probably the greenest and oldest trees in the world. And, the most beautiful, she would add, if you asked her. The bridge that she, even now as we speak, dangles herself off of (on the brink of jumping? What for, Agnes?) looked like the top half of a wagon wheel. It had about 8 steps up on either side and had a landing in the middle, oh, about yay wide and probably 25 feet across from top step to top step. It arched over the steadily flowing river as it had for the last seventy-five years. The setting sun gazed adoringly, straight down the river, at the back of Agnes’ neck and like the lover that she even now dreamed of, he pinkened the skin that was showing through the curtain of wayward hair.
It was 7 PM.
Have you ever thought about how it feels to drown? I remember hearing somewhere that it is one of the most peaceful ways to die. That once your lungs fill up with water, then you have a few minutes to think about what is happening to you before you lose consciousness and eventually decease. But what about the time it takes to ingest enough water to top off your lungs? That was the period of the process that Agnes was leery of. She had almost drown once while swimming in the neighbors pool when she was a little girl. It was a typical Colorado day in June. She was 7 years old.
The sun, that had admired her – even then – was watching her walk, on knock kneed legs, the concrete around the pool towards the deep end. All of the other children had buzzed off to investigate the nursery rhyme jingle of the ice cream truck that they knew was somewhere within a 4 block radius of their current location. She was alone. Under the watchful eye of the Sun, and the neighbors dog, Charles, she marched over to the diving board, which she was forbidden from enjoying, because she couldn’t swim. Oh, she could doggy paddle (poorly) with the rest of ‘em, but a siren she was not. With no apprehension, she climbed the steps to the board and walked to the end gingerly, gave it one good bounce and shot up and off. As calm as she ever was, and almost in slow motion, she saluted the uninterested Chuck the dog, who had not moved an inch from his post at the edge of the pool, only following Agnes with his big brown beagle eyes. She hit the water like a diving crane, slicing through chlorinated liquid with her rose painted toes pointed down. She breeched the surface of the water with her eyes closed and her little stubby fingers pinching the end of her nose. When she felt her heels tap the rough concrete floor, her dreamy eyes popped opened. It was amazing, she thought. Prisms of light danced all around her. She could see Chuck looking disdainfully over the edge into the water. His face distorting this way and that through the waves on the surface, but his disapproval still managing to translate. She let go of her nose, to move herself around, but still held her breath – which was fast becoming short. Turning around and around she became dizzy and delirious from the wonder she felt at how peaceful it was. Blue green and peaceful. Like living in the sky. This is where she wanted to live, she decided. At the bottom of the Klosters pool, with the ever present gargoyle, Charles, looking down on her – literally and figuratively. She took in a breath and remembered where she was. Panic surrounded her, as closely as the water. Skinny limbs thrashed and twisted in a desperate attempt to surface. She screamed, swallowing more water to replace the oxygen that she had just set free. It was odd to Agnes that she could feel so panicked and frightened, and yet still notice the weight in her chest. She could still see Chuck, looking on, bored. Choking and thrashing, her lungs burning and her little chest screaming for air, she continued to kick and flail. All of the her air was changed out with water, by now. She was exhausted from struggling. She stopped moving. Arms and legs moving now with the current of the pool, her head was surrounded by a floating brown cloud of her wavy hair. It felt peaceful for her again. She was still scared, but the panic had subsided.
Her Sun reached through the water, desperately, trying to fold her up in the arms of his rays, but failed because once they broke through the water, they bounced around distractedly. He couldn’t save her, his love. He tried to hide his devastated eyes behind a cloud.
Charles, now getting a little nervous about the amount of time the annoyingly pensive child had spent under water started to stir. Rising onto his entitled four beagle paws, he barked at her to stop fooling around. “Come back up THIS instant, Child”, he said in his out of place New England accent. Running from end to end, he barked commands at the fading girl in the water. Mr. Kloster, hearing the usually uptight and stuck up beagle howling and carrying on rose from his reading chair and stepped out onto the back patio. Instantly recognizing the shadow at the bottom of the pool for a small person he sprung off of the porch and into the deep end. Scooping the little girl into his arms, he pushed off of the pool bottom and shot like a bullet to the tiled edge of the pool. Pushing her up and over, he climbed out and began pushing on her chest. Little Agnes’ tiny cupids bowed lips had turned from petal pink to rain cloud blue. Her eyeballs moved underneath the sheath of her lids. Probably dreaming of octopuses gardens. Mr. Kloster continued to push against her chest, plugging her nose, he breathed into her mouth. Pump. Pump. Breathe. Pump. Pump. Breathe. Charles was having conniptions running around her. The sun peeked out from his cloud. Pump. Pump. Breathe. The other kids, including the Kloster’s terrible triplets, were starting back up the block, their grubby little paws clenching popsicle sticks. Neon colored syrup staining chins and absorbing into still damp bathing suits. The gaggle of everyday American brats lumbered back to their base. Tripping each other and singing songs. Pump. Pump. Breathe. A gurgling sound escaped Agnes’ throat. Pump. Pump. Breathe. Clear liquid rushed up and overflowed from her still blue lips. Another geyser of pool water rushed out. A cough. A gasp. And then steady breath. She had yet to open her eyes, but she was breathing. Charles barked one last angry bark in her face for getting him so worked up and then disappeared through the maze of floaties and inflatable multi colored balls into the bushes near the fence, to presumably calm his frayed nerves. Mr. Kloster shook Agnes gently by the shoulders. Slowly, she opened the jaws of her venus fly trap eyelashes. First, saw the sun coming out from behind a fluffy white cloud, not knowing that it was hiding for her. Then, she saw Mr. Klosters concerned brow, he was tenderly moving the tendrils of wet hair away from her face. She then saw the fence gate kicked open and 5 or 6 sugar stained kids file into the yard and start to surround her. “What happened, Dad?” “Mr. Kloster, did you beat up the weirdo from next door?” “You said you didn’t have popsicles in the house?!? Why are HER lips blue?!?” “Can we watch TV.?” Mr. Kloster, waved off the Captain Kangaroo inquisition and gathered up the unusually serene girl from the concrete to carry her home. As he was walking around the pool to deliver her to two very disappointed in their daughter parents, Agnes craned her neck to look back into the water. As Mr. Kloster carried her up her front walk, she heard the unmistakable “bong” of the diving board and the unmistakable squeals of joy after having been soaked by the unmistakable “SPERLASHHHH” of a cannon ball. 3 minutes had passed since she had jumped. And a lifetime would go by before the feeling of calm at the bottom of that pool would be forgotten.
It was 7:04.
Not today, she decided.
She turned herself around and kicked a still scrawny leg over the handrail of the bridge using her skirt as a buffer to keep the splintering wood out of her lover lonely thighs.
Have you ever been in the frame of mind to step off of a ledge, when you were looking at a particularly striking view of a sky line, or a mountain range, or even the street below from the top of a building? It isn’t a feeling one pursues, I don’t imagine, but a feeling that overcomes ones safety reflex and survival instinct in a split second Greco roman wrestling match with curiosity and a perfectly rational human beings ability to ponder ones own demise without actually desiring it. What would it feel like to, just, step off? How would the wind feel against your body as you rushed towards the pavement, boulders,…..grass? Would the impact be swift? Would you bounce? How would bones break? Would death be instantaneous? I think that would depend on the length of your fall. Would you ask yourself those kinds of questions? Or, would you wonder what it would be like to be free, that free, free falling, if only for the few seconds before your person was destroyed. How wonderful? And different. Those two lines of conflicting thought processes. Have you ever thought of throwing yourself off of ‘stuff‘? I have. Have you?