Thursday, October 12, 2006
LATE NIGHT AT THE ENIGMA CAFE
[ It is now October 2006, and we are still Waiting. Waiting for Change. I am reposting this because I wanted to share it again.Post was originally posted May 20th, 2006 ]
May 20th 2006.
So here we sit at the Enigma Cafe, stirring our coffee, and waiting for someone to show up with fresh bagels.It has been a long spring, all of us waiting for the other shoe to drop.( Actually I meant The Turd Rove to go down in the Plamegate Leak Scandal or the Abramoff mess)..if you know what I mean...) It has been raining and wet here, and even my son has been hanging out and restless, which means we have been telling stories and drinking too much tea and coffee.Storytelling here is not just about biding time, it is about nurturing the soul and stoking the hopes. When you are done listening to this little tale may you sit down and tell a story from your past, one that matters and makes a teenager ponder with a resounding ohhhhhhh. So cozy up a little closer, let me top off you cup. Here is a story....
PART ONE : MIRACLES IN THE DEEP END
My son is 15, the age when you begin to ponder What you want to be. He was asking How I became a nurse , which is not an easy answer because I never actually wanted to Be a Nurse....and involves being 11 years old and a miracle at a swimming pool....in the deepend.
When I was 11 I was very sick for many monthes with a blood disorder and by summer I was finally better, but I looked like a Concentration Camp survivor. I had spent many monthes lying in bed watching the Wild Wild West and Perry Mason and wishing and hoping I would be better by summer. Summer arrived and I was finally better, but it left me weak and looking like Olive Oil. My mother decided that we needed to take a trip to visit my Dad in the Midwest, he lived in a modern apartment complex that had little to offer lonely skinny kids. ( actually there were very few kids even at the complex).
My mom was glad to be on "vacation", which meant that she would sit by the pool and try to sell Shakllee products ( which was some sort of godawful version of Amway crapola) and read her romance novels and tell us to "go play". ( Which is insulting to any 11 year old). So I spent the summer reading things to make her worry- Crime and Punishment and Exodus, for starters. ( and yes Smart Ass that I am I told her that I liked the violence and the sex- just to watch her eyes roll in her head and that vessel in her forehead pulse). I knew that I would spend my time hiding every part of my ostrich being with sweatshirts and towels by the concrete pool at the concrete complex.The whole complex still smelled of wet concrete and sand, there were no birds or trees even, so the pool was really the only place to go to escape the oppressive heat of the apartment.
( My Dad owned an aluminum sideing business in the Midwest, and the first 6 weeks of summer were spent surveying his plants, absorbing Kentucky and Ohio etc. and listening to my mother complain. The second half of the summer was spent in Florida.I spent a good bit of summers hiding from the sun and my mother and reading as many books as possible).
One overcast grey morning we went down to the pool and my mom went to the "Adult End", and sat with two other women and drank iced tea and read Good Housekeepings. I retreated to the other end of this strange pool where I knew no one and tried to read for awhile as I hid under my towels.I tuned my mother out. The "guard" was at the other end of the 60 foot long Peanut shaped pool, sitting on a chaise lounge talking too loudly to a girl friend and listening to the radio. The Beatles drifted on the Coppertone breeze as they giggled about boys like the chatty highschool cheerleaders they were. I painted my toenails with a black marker and cracked my bubblegum and realized that I was going to have to brave stares sooner or later and go in the pool.
I sat on the edge of the deepend and dangled my feet in the murky greenish water, because it wasn't sunny it gave the water a opague listless coloring. While sitting there I noticed a shadow down beneath the ladder. I leaned a little closer to the water and tried to see better, but I still couldn't make out the shadow. Suddenly I had an awful feeling in the pit of my stomach, the kind of gnawing dread that makes your heart pound. I realized Something was Very Wrong. I threw off my sweatshirt and jumped in the pool and as I came up for air I tried to navigate my way to the Shadow, and then I realized the Shadow was not a shadow at all......I dove down to the Shadow.
As I got closer I could make out the figure of a little girl.
I had never seen a dead person, but I was pretty sure that she might be dead.
She was down in the deepend, right below the ladder to get out, her limbs splayed limply and at odd angles. She wasn't the right color, she was greenish in color and her hair was straggled about her head like a seaweed noodle halo. Her eyes were closed as though she was merely sleeping. She had been playing with a snorklemask and it was stuck over her mouth and nose, I remember looking at her and realizing what had happened, such a sad simple mistake.
The Dread had now changed to a different emotion, one of Cold Fear, because I didn't know what to do.
I decided that she looked about 8, I could pull her to the Ladder, and then yell for help, it would be so simple. It wasn't.
I went to touch her arm and it was ice cold, and it felt so heavy, like picking up a huge Yule Log. Dead Weight had a new meaning. I was stunned. I tried again, and could not pull her up. I began to realize that it was just her and I alone down in the DeepEnd, and I wasn't sure if she was dead or alive. The Silence was deafening and roared in my head. My chest was beginning to hurt but I knew that I could still hold my breath for a little longer.I then looked down at her and went over to the ladder and grabbed her by the hair. I grabbed on with all my might and pulled and dragged and hung on to the ladder. And as I got to the top of the ladder I screamed to the guard. It didn't come out very loud becuase I was out of breath. In a very hoarse garbled voice it came out "She's Dead". I was not trying to be dramatic- but I was really scared she was. The Guard came running and soon with her and her friend helping the girl was lifted out of the water. And they had to pry my hand out of her hair. They had a hard time getting the mask off, it was suctioned sealed to her face. She was still a wretched green and cold. I watched the guard give her breathes and turn her over and try to get the water out and the air in. I was stunned becuase as she did all of this I realized that the girl might not be dead after all. I realized that Hope was in Action at that moment, not just wishful thinking.
The guard stopped to take a breath and she looked up and yelled,"Call the Police and Fire, I will need more help. And get blankets. " I didn't ask why, I ran to our apartment right by the pool and called the police on the phone and gave the address, and grabbed the new Sears Americana Blue polyester comforter and blanket off the guest bed in my Dad's apartment and ran back to the pool. By the time I got back , less than 2 minutes later the little girl looked a little better. And I as I stood watching she threw up all over the wonderful new blanket I had just brought down. I knew in the moment of seeing the vomit that maybe she was going to be okay, I was relieved and happy. ( I didn't even hear my mother grumping about the blanket). And after she threw up the green color started to fade from her face and she took her first breath and gasped. And she cried. And all of us standing there were crying.And the Ambulance came and took the little girl away to the Hospital, and the guard's friend went with her, because she was all alone- there was no one to go with her. I was wondering where her mama was ? And it made me wonder if that was why no one knew that she was Missing, or below the surface too long.
My mother stood yelling at me about the "wasted Blankets" I never heard her because in those few minutes Everything was Different. I went back to the Deep End and sat looking at the "Shadow " area. Thinking I never ever wanted to NOT Know What to do.The guard came over and just sat and neither one of felt like talking, not yet. We both sat and dangled our feet. "It's Too Late" by Carole King came on the radio and we both quietly sang along.
She looked over at me and lit a cigarette, her hand shaking slightly. " You know I thought she was dead too."
I sat silent and wordless and stunned.
She explained,"Yeah, I know a guard isn't susposed to say that, but for those couple of minutes I didn't Know What was going to happen.You did a good thing , you know that?"
And I finally said" But I didn't know what to do."
And she looked at me hard, "Yeah, but now you will always want to Know What to do, so that will make you try even harder to save someone. Because now know you can. That's how it works. Come see me later, I have an extra Red Cross Lifesaving book out in my car."
After she finished her cigarette she stood up and looked at me, and said " Saving someone is about the trying, you never know how it will turn out, it is more than Hope....some say it is about Faith. "
And that is how I became a Lifeguard.....the Nurse story is for another day.
We all have stories of How we became Who we are....and how we got there.