Rachel E.

My mom kicked my dad out of the house when I was three years old. They had four children. I saw him once when I was sixteen, but do not remember the experience because it was too stressful and traumatic. Two years after my dad left, my mother had a child from another man and raised the five of us on welfare without him. She was abusive physically, emotionally, and sexually towards us. There was strife between our mother and all of our relatives. Many people believed her to be mentally ill. I still believe she is. She spent most of the time away from home and the five of us were used to being on our own. We had a family membership at the YMCA. We were signed up for swimming lessons. The YMCA had two pools. The huge cold pool was for laps, general swim, and had a large shallow end. The second pool was coveted. It was all deep-end and warm. A person had to pass a swim test in order to enter that room and pool.

I had a full range of emotions by the age 12 and knew what happiness, love, hurt, and pain was. However, my knowledge of those emotions was skewed, due to the divorce, lies, and abuses. I have no memory of the day I drowned except for the pool event. My memory that day starts in the pool and ends putting on my shoes to go back home. The size of the warm room was probably 1400 square foot. I did not enjoy swimming unless it was in this specific room because I did not enjoy being cold, especially wet and cold. I did not swim well. However, I did swim well enough to be in this pool. I did not need a shallow end. I could swim from one side to the other, several times, with a pause in between each lap. There was a single door into the room. It was in the front corner. The teenage male volunteer lifeguard was sitting in his fold-out camp chair 20 feet from the door inside the room, center to the pool, in order to see the entire length of the pool. For the most part, he stayed in the room, though he went into the hall for a few seconds, now and then, and would stand in the doorway to talk to friends sometimes. He was a good kid. On this particular day, my favorite pool had adults swimming, maybe five. There were teenagers, around ten of them. There were probably fifteen kids of the age twelve and under. The pool was comfortably crowded. There was enough space to take a few running steps from the wall and jump into the pool without hitting anyone. We were doing just that, even though it was not allowed.

The room was echoing full-blast from the sounds. Kids were screaming, playfully yelling to each other, boogie boards were being argued over, kids jumped into the water, and people were constantly getting out of the pool. During the summer we would find ourselves at the pool regularly. This day was no different than any other. I was not extra hungry or full. I had no injuries. I was not emotional. I was a kid having an awesome summer day at the pool with her siblings. I remember having fun. My memory that day starts with me hanging onto the side of the pool and my older brother jumping into the pool near me with a newly obtained boogie board. When he surfaced, I yelled to him to let me have a turn on it. He laughed and started towards the other side of the pool informing me, he only just got the board, and had not had a turn yet himself. I set out after him. I caught him in the center of the pool. For some strange reason I was aware of the lifeguard having to use the men’s restroom. He was not doing a full-on potty dance, yet was making the signs of a full bladder. I was hanging onto one end of the boogie board and my brother was hanging onto the other end. We were both smiling and getting geared up for conquest of the board. I knew, full well, that he had not had a turn on the board yet. I also knew full well that it was not my turn. I was not going to fight him for the board. I was just playing, teasing. I was focused on taking it from him, just for the fun of it. After a skirmish I managed to get the board under the water, gripped between my knees. My brother was treading next to me and we were wrestling. Boogie boards are meant to float and it wanted freedom. The board was difficult to keep under the water. My brother was hanging onto my arms and I was balancing with the board shoved underwater. I tilted just so, and the board shot up out of the water launching itself several feet away. We both lunged for it, slapping and pushing each other as we swam for it. We were both tired at that point. We were in the center of the pool having fun. He was trying to reach the board while keeping me back and I was trying to keep him from reaching the board more than actually trying to reach the board myself.

I saw the lifeguard looking intently at the pool, the people in the pool and out the door. I knew he wasn’t looking at anyone in particular. He had to pee. When I glanced over at my brother our eyes met and he looked worried. So, I stopped. I saw him look at the board, the side of the pool and me: judging the distance between each item. He was much more exhausted than I realized and more so than I felt at that moment. He decided to reach for me. I knew that a drowning man was a dangerous man. I tried to swim for the board with the intent of bringing it to him, but, he needed me now. He grabbed on and kept his head above the water. I went under for a second and came back up above the water. He looked light headed and dizzy. His grip was strong. I was still trying to go get the board for him and he was not letting go. I tried to swim with him latched onto me but it was very difficult and he went under a few times for a second each. I looked into his eyes again and I saw panic. I held still. He pushed down on me to keep his head above the water and the lifeguard left the room. I went under. My brother went under with me. He started to kick irrationally and grabbed my head pushing me under even further in order to get his face out of the water. I relaxed. I knew it was important for me to breathe. I knew it was important for him to breathe. I knew he was stronger than I was. We were still in the center of the pool.

Underwater, I could see all the kids playing, laughing, running, jumping, and screaming. I kicked hard with my legs and came up above the water-line. The room was deafening with noise. Each person in the room made the same motions I was about to make. I was going to scream, wave my arms around, and call for help. I was tired. I had two seconds. I could continue with my plan and waste my energy or I could stay up for two seconds and take a huge breath. I took a huge breath and let my brother push me under again. He was no longer in control. He was in survival mode. I was face to face with a hard fact. Either I was going to drown or he was going to drown. I could see each and every one of my choices.

1. Let myself sink and swim away. Once I got away I could make my way to the edge of the pool and get help.

2. I could go for the boogie board, but I was fairly certain someone had seen it abandoned and already had it in full use.

3. I could use him like a boogie board and let him drown.

4. I could fight him and we could both drown.

5. I could waste my breath screaming and waving and we would both drown.

6. I could realize how much I loved him.

I chose the last one. I loved him and I did not want him to be scared. I knew that if I made any motion to leave him, he would lose it. I needed to stay calm and motionless. I needed to let him use me as a boogie board; it was the only way to subside his panic enough for him to keep his face above the water. So, I relaxed. There was no struggle in me. I directed my energy towards sending him tranquil and peaceful thoughts. I tried to convey to him with my body language that everything was going to be okay and that I was fine. When I felt him feel for me, I moved enough for him to know I was still alive. I knew the lifeguard would be back any instant. I just had to wait. I realized time was passing, but did not know how much time had passed.

I opened my eyes. I could see everyone in the room. I could hear what each person was saying. Then, I realized I could see the tops of their heads. I was above the pool looking down into the water. I could see who was in the next room. I could hear what each of them was saying. I could see the lifeguard coming back. He was half-way down the hall only twelve feet from the door. He was hurrying, a little anxious. I could see the colors and depth of everything in the room and the room itself, but those things didn’t matter. Time and space didn’t seem to be important.

Sound was important. I could hear everything. With the sound came feelings. I could feel what people were feeling. Only two people in the room were worried about me. One was telling someone who would not listen. The other was a little boy about five years old. When the lifeguard came into the room, the little boy went to him and pointed. Immediately the lifeguard was on it. I felt movement in and around my body. I started to debate with myself and my out-of-body experience became something else.

I was no longer a body floating above the pool. I became time and space. I could see the entire universe and it was not like when you watch the Nova channel. It was different because I was the universe. I was everything. Sound disappeared except I could hear my debate. My debate was not sound. My debate was made of time. I could enter my body; my body was a piece of time in space. Or, I could stay out of my body and be everywhere, part of everything, which would be a different type of time in space. I asked the question, ‘Should I go back into my body?’

The answer was, ‘No, you should wait. If you were to go back now, you would die.’ I knew I was ignorant of the reasoning behind it.

‘Wouldn’t I die if I waited?’

‘No, you’re fine. Wait. If you want to go back, I will tell you when.’

Many people have said I was talking to G*d. I was not talking to G*d, nor an angel. I was talking to myself. I was the universe. I was G*d. I knew everything and nothing at the same time. I was everything. I felt movement in my body again and knew I was still not dead. I was on the cold hard floor now, except I was on the ceiling. This time my back was pressed up against the plaster. It was cold and hard. I looked around. I could not see myself in the water. Everyone was at one end of the room. A ring of people were standing around a spot. There was a tense, dense, thickness to everything: The air, the emotions, the sound, the time, the space, the bodies, the thoughts. I knew I was about to go back and I hesitated. Just for a moment I didn’t want to, really didn’t want to return. Before the drowning, I was a very tiny speck of thought, time, space, and sound. I had been a piece of material, a piece of matter, molded into a tight space with severe limits. I had been cut off from time and space. I had been stuck inside something. I had been stuck inside something that experienced sharpness, coldness, need, and the feeling of knowing I was wrong. I was forced to feel the wrong in my actions, feelings, physical sicknesses in the human body, and weakness in will.

During the drowning I was everything everywhere. The pieces of material and matter in the universe were not solid objects. I was the space between. I was everywhere at once. Objects didn’t matter. Not one object was more important than another object. There was just time and space making up each object. There was time and space in between each of those objects choosing not to be an object in that moment. I knew that, when I went back, I would go back to being cut off. Those made me hesitate. It did not make me sad. It did not make me mad. I knew that once again, objects that were not me would exert their supposed superiority over me. I knew that cold would be separated from heat. I knew that hunger would be separated from the rain. I knew I would have a very long, cold, lonely, and painful life.

Anyone who has ever hesitated understands that hesitation only lasts a speck of a moment and is over before each of the reasons you hesitated, surface. I knew I wanted to come back. I was waiting respectfully, to be able to come back. I wanted to return to the phenomenon of running and jumping. I wanted to feel the warm breeze on my skin. I wanted to return to the perspective of being an object that could bump up against other objects that were not me. I wanted to exist as something that was apart from other things. I wanted to be something of my own. I wanted to be all by myself as an object separated from everything. That human body waiting for me was an experience to be had. It was an experiment I had only recently started and I wanted to finish that experiment. I was pulled back into my body as the water left my lungs. I did not consciously go towards my body. I was pulled. At that moment, my out-of-body body was pulled in the same fashion a human body is pulled when you tie a rope around your waist while you are wearing roller skates and someone on a bike pulls you.

I felt distinctly like a crumpled-up, wet drowned rat on its back. The water coming from my mouth and nose felt very wrong. The room was thickly warm but the floor was cold, but not a sharp cold, just a hard cold. It was not a snuggly warm feeling at all. Lots of people were staring at me. Everyone looked scared with the hint of a forthcoming sense-of-relief all the while exuding a shifty guilt. My vision was blurred. My eyes were foggy from the water and burned from the chlorine: which was odd because, when I was on the ceiling, my sight was perfect. I was dizzy and my body felt very, very heavy. Like lead. It was difficult getting up to stand. Someone helped me. I must have stayed a while in a room but I don’t remember. I do remember struggling to get my clothes on later and it took forever to get on my socks and shoes. While tying my shoes I remember slipping out of my mind for a while and drifting back and forth, in and out. It was definitely not an out of body experience. It was a drifting and slipping, hazy experience.

I lived a normal life after that. As I grew and had heart-to-heart conversations with people and got to know people one-on-one, I could tell I was different from many people. I could tell the difference between those that were closed off and those who had been opened up. Some people understand the nature of things. Others don’t. I am religious and spiritual. I don’t need to go to church to talk to G*d. I talk to G*d every second of the day. I am not afraid to die. I look forward to it. Until then, I am living life and doing what I believe is right. I like to experience many things. I live responsibly and fully. I believe in all things in moderation. I drink a few times each year. I’ve tried pot a couple times and even took mushrooms three times. I am happy when I am happy. I am happy when I am sad. I am happy when I am sick. I am happy when I am sick and tired of life. I understand. I think I get it. I think I know why we are all here. I feel like I know the meaning of life.

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