Here in this small space that contains a smaller space in which a single seahorse undulates gently against thick ribbons of watery green, I am drowning.
This will not do.
I pull out my iPhone and flip through photos I have taken, staring blindly as I pull viscid air through my lips and down my throat and into my lungs, where it settles heavily and resists exhalation.
But I nod.
I focus my attention on the photo in my hand . . . an image of my daughter smiling with her long hair blown back by the wind. I run a finger along her cheek, just barely touching the screen, and her photo slides sideways to reveal the next in line, a photo of a sprawling thorned cactus hulking along the side of the freeway. Images from our recent trip to San Diego . . . I flip through a few more as I fight to control my breathing, and a thought occurs to me.
I tap the screen a few times and a slideshow begins, each photo dissolving into the next.
Deep breaths . . . three photos to breathe air in and three more to breathe air out.
Inhale . . . ocean . . . restaurant . . . beer . . . Exhale . . . frog . . . elephant . . . panda . . . Inhale . . . swimming . . . maps . . . palm trees . . . Exhale . . . beach . . . splashing . . . husband . . . Inhale . . . horses . . . crayfish . . . mud . . . Exhale . . . turtles . . . fountain . . . lily pads . . .
I breathe in and out, regaining control.
“You sure you’re alright?”
I nod, “Yes, I’m nervous, but I’m alright.”
We sit side by side in the silence that follows these admissions.
I slide my finger across the small screen, searching for lily pads.
Waxy sliced ovals of green atop the water, tethers visible through shallow clear water, shadows cast perfectly against the pond’s cemented bottom.
Translucent shadows . . . shadows that reveal more than is visible to the naked eye. Atop the water sits an oval of glossy verdancy, a single small slice removed. Below the water is a flower, a delicate petaled flower of shadows that looks nothing like a lily pad.
In which a hidden vulnerable truth is revealed in the play of darkness.
I stare at the image of the lily pads and their secret truths.
I close my eyes against the light that is to come.
I shut my mind against the shadows that will be cast as the light shines over and through me.
I will refuse the light.
I will not be made translucent.
I will not be revealed.
My shadow leans to touch my arm, “I’m scared.”
Here in this small space that contains a smaller space in which a single seahorse undulates gently against thick ribbons of watery green . . .