The ripples danced beneath my feet as if invisible fairies were flying over the pond and landing on the surface for a tenth of a second, and taking flight again. My pale bare feet dangled above the water. The four dark hairs on my toes pointed up at me, wiry and thick. They were so long and black. I could have easily plucked them, but I let them grow out. What was the point of plucking them? It's not like I had a jar to keep them in.
The breeze rustled through the trees lining the pond, a gentle whispering technique that nature was attempting to deploy as a soothing ruse. It wouldn't work on me; I was much too strong of mind to fall for a trick like that. I looked over my shoulder along the wooden dock. A few splatters of bird shit stained the dark wood in a white spotting design, like a Roy Lichtenstein painting. Beyond the dock stretched my parents' gravelly backyard, full of discarded furniture and trash, used up remnants of life.
Their home loomed in the distance, the home I had grown up in, the home I had grown out of, the home I seemed to be visiting with increasing frequency as my adult life fell apart. I was coming back more and more to escape something. Visiting this small town I had lived in as a child, I took comfort not in fond memories, but in any memories at all.
The sun was disappearing behind the trees, sucking any sense of warmth out of the evening. Shivering, I knew it was time to go back. I looked at the house, waiting to be motivated to want to go in.
My hair whipped across my face and I stood up on the dock. The damp wood felt creaky and good beneath my feet. I wiggled my toes, digging myself into the dock, trying to become it. I wanted to be the rotting wood. I wanted to hover over the pond. I wanted to be a place to sit and pretend to be pensive. Teenagers would come sit on me if I was a dock and they would make out and touch each other and pretend to have deep meaningful conversations and to share their feelings and I would be under them, sitting patiently waiting for them to get it over with.
I stood at the end of the long dock with my back to my house. My posture was tall and straight. My feet dug into the dock; my toes curled over the edge. My armpits were moist. I attempted to keep my trembling to a minimum as I would need the use of my muscles and some level of agility from my limbs. My knees were loose, not bent but not locked either. I took a deep breath.
Raising my arms above my head I jumped into the air. Midair I bent my body, flipping my legs up behind me in a pointed human leg tail. My hands came together, clasped themselves automatically, and pointed down into the water. I let myself slide through the air, cutting through space and time like a pointy dagger. All sound washed away. I closed my eyes and now my entire senses were being controlled by the tactile center. I could feel everything. I could feel all the particles of moisture in the air seeping in through my shirt. I could feel the emptiness sliding away.
My pointed hands hit the freezing water and I slipped easily through, making very little splash. The water was too murky for me to open my eyes, but I didn't need to at this point. I swam down farther, kicking my toes. I was speeding away from the surface, away from my day job, away from my friends and family, away from the rent I didn't know if I could pay, away from the ex boyfriend who cut me out of his life, away from the desperation and loneliness and desire for connection, away from putting my foot in my mouth, away from everyone I loved who I ultimately hurt and broke and disappointed, away from the smell of cheese.
Thus submerged I felt safe, hidden, and free.
The pond went deeper than I thought. Without feeling tired, I swam for miles, down into caverns far below our adorable fishing pond. Soon enough I didn't need to breathe. I had escaped. Opening my eyes finally in the darkness, the water was much clearer down here, which seemed counter-intuitive. A few yards from me I could see a tiny house underwater. It was pink, the size of a child's playhouse or a shed. It was resting in a tree, that had somehow grown underwater. I swam towards it.
When I got there I opened the front door of the tree playhouse and let myself inside. No one was there, not that I really expected anyone to be, not that my expectations of how normalcy worked had any weight down here. The house was barely tall enough to fit someone of my unimpressive height and size, almost as though it had been custom built for me. The walls inside were a rich green, my favorite color. Breathing, for the first time underwater, I could smell coconut and freshness.
There was a small table set up in the center of the house. It was lined with a tea set and some plates of plastic fruit. A stack of comic books rested on the corner of the table. On the floor lay a few old barbies and action figures. In chairs sitting around the table were two porcelain dolls and a big teddy bear. The dolls had glass eyes that stared at me through the water with piercing shining brightness. The teddy bear had black button eyes that seemed to watch me wherever I moved around the house.
There was an extra chair next to bear. An empty tea cup sat in front of it. A small lacey doiley curled up at me, like a dead dry leaf rotting on the sidewalk. I sat down next to the bear in the empty seat. I didn't help myself to tea, but rather just politely looked down at my hands in my lap, occasionally stealing glances at Bear and the dolls to make sure they were enjoying themselves. They were. They remained frozen in time forever, underwater at this tea party.