"But the greatest desire of all
is to be
In the dreams of another,
To feel a slight pull, like reins,
To feel a heavy pull, like chains."
— Yehuda Amichai
Trying To Rationalize My Mother’s Fear of My Impending Drowning
I don’t even remember when I found out about Ma’s fear that I would drown someday. She is so certain. She dreams about it. She dreams of me falling off of ocean liners, slipping off docks, being taken by the surf, swallowing seas, sailing sinking ships. I’ve drowned so many times in my mother’s dreams.
Drowned so many times my mother put me into swimming classes, had us swim in my aunt’s pool every day in the summertime, had me get a job as a swim instructor and a lifeguard for six years. I’ve saved three people.
One summer when I was three of four I slipped through an inner tube and began to sink to the bottom of a pool and my mother dove in after me. I wonder if this is where it started. I remember it.
I can swim a mile in Providence Sound and I can swim an hour and a half straight in an indoor pool and the worst that happens is that my ears get so water logged it sounds like someone’s tapping a microphone with every sound.
My uncle has a bought and we would go out on it all the time in the summer. It’s called the Innamorata. Whose? Mine. She was mine. We docked her in Warwick, and East Greenwhich but most of all I remember for a few years we docked her in Eastie. You floated before the glittering gates, a city on a cloud, her rocking back and forth, planes landing behind you.
A couple people in the family have drowned. If you read the death certificates they say: “Lost at sea.”
Drowning happens so fast. You die when your lungs fill with water. When you drown you literally die overwhelmed by the world surging into your body. When I was three of four I almost drowned and unlike so many childhood memories I remember that one. I remember my complete and uncompromising calm and how I thought to myself about how I needed to move my body in order to swim back to the surface. But it’s always been a mystery to me. I don’t remember being grabbed by Ma and being brought back up. I don’t remember the afterwards. Maybe I never came up at all. Maybe I’m still down there at the bottom of that pool, trying to pull myself towards the light rippling in streamers at the barrier of death and breath. Maybe I’m still pulling myself up, slowly.
Maybe I never came up at all. Maybe I’m drowning.
"many an idle dream is looking for a home of sleep like yours to happen in."
— Walter Benton
"‘I love you,’ she whispered, ‘only you; no one but you. It was you who awoke me last summer out of a life-long, stupid dream…’"
— Kate Chopin, The Awakening (via wrists)
On College, Three Strikes and Bursting Someone’s Bubble
Why the hell am I not allowed to burst someone’s bubble? People do it to me all the time and it’s a great learning experience. Why I am not allowed to call out privilege when I seet it? The only privilege I seem to be allowed to recognize is my own. And I do. And then people say “and you think you’re better than us” for it. What? What sort of demented, obtuse logic am I working with here?
I live with children. Not “too young to sit in the front seat” children, but mental children. I do not live in a dorm but I live in an apartment building inhabited solely by college students. And many of them have the same if not worse capacity for responsibility that most 9 year olds have. We have laundry machines. They regularly have a laundry service do it for them at a greater cost. Fall asleep drunk in the bathtub and flood the hallway? Someone else comes to clean it up. Don’t worry. 15-page paper? Pay a grad student to do it for you. They lock themselves out on a regular basis. Consitently the maintenance guy can be heard saying: “Dude, you forgot your keys again? You guys forget them all the time.” Not like I have never forgotten my keys. Twice I think. But every weekend? Come on, like I said, the only people who do not have to remember to take keys with them when they leave their house: children.
Yet these people drive up the street in BMWs and Benzs and one of them even has a Rolls Royce. Someone who cannot manage their own laundry is being entrusted with a Rolls Royce. But of course, they’re not privileged. Not at all, no, just misunderstood. They’re just here to chill, man. Just do their own thing, man. Right.
Sorry, but I do not think someone deserves the “jackass” moniker for calling someone out. For saying the truth. For being realistic and straightforward. Did I hurt their feelings? Am I being a self-righteouss prick? Three strikes. Three impertinent strikes. Likely, you have few naivetes about the behavior of privileged college students. And I find myself exposed to those on a daily basis. I am not at the entirely commuter state school in Boston anymore. Where my classrooms were once filled with people working two jobs, 60 hours a week, 30, 40, 50, 60 year olds some to finally earn a degree, veterans just returned from Iraq or Afghanistan, international students from every corner of the globe, mothers, fathers, I am now mostly surrounded by 18-24 year olds studying, getting drunk and getting high. Yay.
And who cares? I don’t care. I’m not opposed to alcohol or weed or studying. But it’s a privilege. You have undoubtedly heard of the three strikes law they have here in California. Some kid in Inglewood or Hollywood or East L.A. can go to jail for what might as well be forever for: smoking pot, shoplifting an Arizona iced tea, and smoking pot again. Or maybe being publicly drunk. The college students here (not all of them I have to stress) do the same things. And people know about it! It’s no secret! The police could bust their asses in one hot second! The frats?! Come on people, the only way it could be more obvious and easier was if they decided to party in the actual police station. But where be the problem? Like I said, they get a free pass, 17-year-old in South L.A. gets jailtime. They get a free pass and a job and a degree. 19-year-old gets jailtime. I say just once, just one time: arrest them. Arrest them all. You know where they are. Give them a little scare. Come on, just a little shock to the heart. Does that make me a jackass or a prick or self-righteouss or ridiculous? Fine.
Yesterday I was at work and talking to one of my female co-workers. She’s just a few years younger than me. High school graduate. So I asked her, “What do you do outside of work? Do you go to school?” “No,” she told me, “I just hang out and stuff.” Okay, that’s fine, but any interest?s? “Do you have any plans? Or, I mean, is there anything you know you want to do?” Because I am presuming a smart, friendly girl like her has goals exceeding part time shifts at a frozen yogurt shop and hanging out. “No I don’t know, I mean,” Here it comes! I knew she had something. “I don’t know.” Just like that. Deflated back into disaffection and dormancy. Am I not allowed to call someone out who is not privileged either? Was that wrong of me? Was it wrong of me to assume she should expect great things from herself? But listen, when her shoulder slumped, that was the first step. She recognizes at least, that, at least if she does not know what her “dreams” are, she recognizes she should have some. Bursting someone’s bubble does this. Believe me. I am not the same person I was five years ago and that has almost everything to do with what I have learned from someone else. Usually bursting one of my many foolish bubbles.
Lastly, let me tell you about the light at the end of the tunnel. I and some of my fellow students tutor at a nearby middle school in what the L.A. Times heedlessly refers to as “Historic South Central”. The school has 2/10 rating. 96% of the kids at this school are on free or reduced lunch. After we had finished the tutoring portion of our session (there is a wicked fun dance-part too), my student, an 11-year-old girl, was hanging about with some of the other kids and I was flipping though her binder. She had earlier told me, when asked, that her favorite class was one where they “prepare you for college.” I asked her to explain. They tour colleges arond the city, they learn about setting goals, about critical thinking. I wanted to look at her materials from that class. One sheet stands out. “What does college mean to you?” it asks. My student, in legible but quirky pencil, had written in: “Where your dreams get to come true.” The worksheet asks whether she thinks she can get to college: “I don’t know. But I know if I work hard that I will get there.” Doth the audience protest? Do we at least have a place to start? Can we agree that we should be working as hard as we can to make both of these statements become realities more than they already are?
Tip of the hat to you all.
Oh but you can have anything you want.
Oh but you can have anything you want. The thing I find with want is that it goes hand in hand with sacrifice. The girl with the rickety house by the beach can want an education but not without giving up her family and her home. The boy with the overflowing bank account can want to build an orphanage but not without losing his business. One can want to be with someone forever but not without sacrificing dreams. I think wants are always healthy to have because it teaches something about ourselves once we have it in our hands or in our arms or in our bloodstream. Because sometimes we find that the thing we wanted, was nothing more than something to be checklisted off. But sometimes we find that the thing we wanted, was our intuition showing us what we need. We bury her a lot, you see; intuition. You can have anything you want. You can be anyone you want. The only thing you really have to decide, is whether or not you’re ready to stop gripping on the things you have to let go. I cannot tell you enough how many times it feels like my heart has been torn out because of the choices I’ve made. But I would go through it again and again because it means changing and growing and finding myself and that means living.
Romila Barryman a.k.a. daydreamsonlooseleafpaper.tumblr.com
I had to have this on my blog :)