I recently became consumed with the color blue, gathering all my blue things together into little arrangements — stacks of blue books, collections of blue jars and vessels, blue flower pots prominently placed, sleeping between blue sheets, craning my neck to see the blue of the bay. Friday night the sky grew a blue moon. And Friday night I was steeped in blue dreams.
Before I was making too many memories, I made a few of water. Water in my nose, water burning my eyes, water filling my lungs, water drowning my dreams. These are sharp recollections, dulled only by the clouded vision of underwater eyes, everything blue and intangible, almost ghostly. And these recollections come from the two times before the age of five that I almost drowned, moments that have dominated my perception of my body in water in the 20 years since: vulnerable, small, out of control. With all its necessity, all its blue beauty and serenity, water to me is also an uncertain force, an unknown thing, and therefore unnerving.
The first time was at a pool party. In all the commotion, a three-year-old me with bright orange arm band floaties got stuck under a floating blow-up island. Under it, I remember the fluttering light dappling the bright, other worldly blue, and the cavernous but full sound of it all. It stung my eyes — all that sharp water — but the blue was soft and serene. It’s what I remember most.
The second time was like the blue of dark night. Still young, I stood on the steps leading into a large hot tub, water up to my chest. I took a step, thinking there was one more stair below me but instead I was swallowed by stoney water, murky and dark.
As I grew, I never shed my shyness of water. It took me years to join my sister in the river, where we spent our summers, and I still have never swam farther in the ocean than where I can stand. But with this timidity stemmed a kind of unending wonder. When you touch your toes to the unknown, rarely jumping in, it can take hold of your imagination, create a deep mystique that can’t be overcome. Like the mystery of space, a person can become lost in it, get pulled into the vastness and uncertainty like a child pulled into adulthood. It can take you over. It can co-opt your dreams.
Beneath the blue moon, I dreamt of water. I was on a ship with a group of people, all of us stationed around the edge of the deck holding onto posts, whether for safety or formation I don’t know. On the other side from where I stood, someone went over. As people tried to save this person, they all went over, too — one by one, the whole of the group disappearing over the edge until it came to me, and I too slipped into the water. I floated slowly to the bottom, the murky blindness of it becoming a long and gentle descent, no top or bottom or side; just the endless shifting body of un-holding blue. I expected to drown, to struggle with the sharp water then cease breathing. Instead, I pulled the heavy water into me and breathed. Soft and warm, like thick summer air, the water filled my lungs and I breathed the blue of it in.