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A Story of Water

I lingered in my mother’s womb a week longer than I was supposed to, according to the medical professionals. In my culture, we frown upon lingerers and late arrivers. In some places we’ve decided lingering is illegal and call it loitering, a sin against productivity. Thanks to my lingering, they drained the water of my first dwelling, rendering it uninhabitable and forcing me to find a new home. Apparently, I didn’t do this fast enough either because the Houston medical staff grabbed my head with tongs like a tender piece of Texas barbecue and pulled me into the room full of harsh fluorescence, a room rendered scientifically sterile. Then they made sure I cried, so they knew my lungs worked in this new relationship to unbound oxygen. This was maybe my first experience with water as a being on this earth, a displacement from my home due to scarcity, a fracturing of hydrogen from oxygen, but horrific photographs are all I have of a conscious memory of the event. Perhaps I’m being dramatic; every baby eventually emerges from the womb and I was arguably growing too big for the space. Perhaps I needed the extra help to get moving along through the story of life.

Moving to Colorado before my fontanelles fused, my brain still sponging up the world’s information at waterfall rates, I became quickly landlocked but continued to be shaped by experiences with water. There were traumas, like being held under the bath spigot in all the wrong ways, an accidental waterboarding as my parents, too fractured by cultural mythologies of individualism, fought. Or the aquamarine memory of falling into the deep end of the chlorine water my first day of swimming lessons and proceeding to flunk the class. I have grey-tinged memories of swimming through dead water at the trailer park pool where I learned, only after we’d cleared out all the giant brown and yellow clingy leaves, that my father can’t swim. The bright Jersey shores of my stepdad’s childhood taught me water could leave sticky salt kisses, sparkle for shape-shifting miles, and tumble a body into quick humility, rounding and smoothing the rougher edges of the soul over time. When I started looking back to map out my relationship to water, I found the life-giver dripping everywhere.

I learned to be a stronger swimmer, albeit jostled and distrusting of water’s seemingly foreign environment, the whole time wondering – is this what it was like for my nonhuman ancestors to learn to walk on land? Is this what it’s like to remember the origins of life? The water? I remember first loving water in the bath, a personal steaming hot spring inside the home, accessible at any moment. I have some friends who take baths almost daily and never at the same hour. Artists. Feelers. The bath a healing space, regenerative, redemptive, purifying.

I love baths. I’m fortunate enough to be able to access hot baths whenever I want, a benefit to my survival in this world, a kind of water few have access to on the gl