I tried to drown but it couldn’t happen.
That, uh, sounds really dramatic. It kind of is, though. I mean, water is probably in the top 5 liquids of things that kill people the most. It’s like, fire. But wet and good for you. Definitely not something you want in your lungs. I found out in the dumbest way possible too, not respectable beginnings to the immense caliber of the superpower ‘cannot drown’: I put my head in a fishbowl.
Yeah. It was at Ayleen’s party – I had a crush on her. We’d been sorta-friends since we started high school, accidentally became part of the same group I hung out during the breaks, and I’d decided that day I would confess to her. Fear and premature regret, my favourite things to feel for 24 hours straight. I’d asked her friends what my chances were. They were, in hindsight, very much pitying me, so weren’t too truthful. That’s fair. Who even asks strangers over MSN, hey, “does she like me?” So that night, I’d combed my bangs, dressed myself as someone who didn’t listen to five classic rock bands max, and continuously failed to pose myself in cool and natural ways around her. Needless to say, I had maybe one conversation, Jan, of course, before I felt really good about the bad sides of myself. So I did what any hopeless romantic would do and terrified their crush’s goldfish into cardiac arrest. It didn’t impress her. Also, I couldn’t get the bowl off. So those were very embarrassing, very panic-filled, water-filled last 30 seconds of my life.
Sixty seconds. Two minutes. Five minutes? Drowning shouldn’t last that long, I thought, and also someone at the party said, casually sipping a vodka-chocolate milk mix drink. Gross. “Shouldn’t you be, like, dead right now?” Yes, I blubbed. “Should I, like, get like, a sledgehammer?” “They’re still alive, you idiot.” “Do you have any better ideas?” A crowd formed around me and remained uncomfortably still. The radio installation was playing Rage Against The Machine way too loudly, though I wished loud enough to break the glass. It was getting cramped in there. They were staring at me, holding drinks, holding phones, holding hands. It was nice to see couples still form under strenuous, slightly-surreal circumstances. But they all just kept standing there, scared of withheld actions they’d told themselves would make things worse. They didn’t want to risk, I don’t know, breaking my neck or smashing my head in on accident. Only acting in prevention when it’s already too late (and then not even), instead of stopping the bomb from having to explode at all, that’s not helping. It’s not healing. People ought to be more careful for others, full of care I mean, outside of moments of crisis, into the life inbetween events.
“The tragedised one will not die.” That sounded like truth, but it didn’t sound like it had come from the circle of silence. But what did I know, I had a fishbowl over my ears and a dead goldfish in front of my face. I looked around, then I looked down. It wasn’t like I’d suddenly shifted between realities, or was looking into deep space, beholding the pillars of creation with stardust glittering my eyelashes. I could simply feel something overlapping. “The observant one noticed. There is no need to speak.” So there wasn’t. “The drastic one must go on with life. For reasons the surviving one does not need to know.” Well, okay. “In time, the necessary shall be made clear to the al–” I gasped for air, longer than I’d ever before, just, savouring the feeling of being alive, there’s nothing quite like it and nothing can one-up it. I accidentally inhaled Ayleen’s pet. I had meaningful eye contact with her, the girl of a single dream, holding a small axe. “Uh. Thanks for saving my life(?)” and, instinctively, I stormed out of the party. Left my coat and everything, to go freeze my ass off covered in corpse-soaked water, some plucks of seaweed, and pieces of an underwater castle in the coldest november in Zoetermeer we’ve had in years. After three minutes of ugly sobbing and hideous running, terrible form really, I barfed out the fish in a ditch. She’d told me his name was Crash Bandicoot.
Thankfully, it was the last year of high school so it was almost time to never talk to her or anyone remotely involved in that social stratum ever again, something I still don’t regret. There was still the matter of my little escape of dying – I dismissed that miracle, a show of God’s labour and decided it was a more occultic intervention. I had ‘satanist’ as religion and Post Office as favourite book on my Facebook profile back then. I wanted to meet that devil, wanted to know it better. Besides, I was probably preordained or something? Every morning at 7:30, I spent way too long under the shower, my father always yelling “get out of there you’re wasting water” at 7:40, trying out new and exciting ways to fit the shower head in my mouth as to effectively drown myself. That didn’t work, also had to explain to my dad what the hell I was doing when he pulled aside the curtains after the twentieth time. “I was cleaning my insides. From all the drugs I take. Haha.” I wasn’t lying but it seemed unbelievable to him back then.
A good observer has probably figured out by now that I needed to look into water for it to take effect – I say ‘it’ as a halfhearted attempt at reification. For most of my seventeenth year, I shut myself in my room, there’s no lock on my door but I don’t think I would’ve used it either way, staring into a bowl filled with water. Hi, I blubbed into my tupperware fetish. The ghost amulet, not the other. “The curious one returns. The ritual scares not.” Devil – I named it Devil – was right; I guess it really didn’t. Drowning myself wasn’t an action that felt dangerous, extreme, irregular. What was unknown to me, this ultimate hollow in a limestone cave of sort-of’s and yeah-true’s, had to be explored no matter what. Death could be a corollary, but honestly, that’s what makes it so interesting. Thinking about death, what I’d be like if dead, if not, makes my heart funny. Excited. It cannot be known, and once known, that’s done. It’s not a mission, though, just a short, abrupt stop to a life of cool vagaries.
“The unwavering one wants to know more,” Devil told. Yes. It didn’t tell me, it just stated the obvious. I couldn’t see it, but it was there, against the plastic bottom of the bowl. It wasn’t really anything, like, conceptually not. It was the word ´no´. “Water holds light, as does any other existence. But light in water becomes lighter, fluttering. Water holds light and light carries us like a basket. We toil in the immeasurable, unmeasurable currents of water. Like the basket’s grasses, interwoven, stitched together to form a vessel. We see what light does, not what it is. In similar vein to that, you see what water does, as well as what it is. What it is the water does, you do not want. So we come.” Uhhhh. “You do not need to know what that means.” You are absolutely right. “You are the special one. There is nothing we ask of you.” Okay. “The alive one simply needs to keep alive. You can do that.” I… suppose so.
That happened in probably the most painful, distressing, depressing time in my life. I wouldn´t have minded drowning back then, being dead, but not dying was the best thing that´s ever happened to me. Even when I came back to visit, Devil wasn´t as present as before. It was still ´no´, but whatever it was a rejection of became distant enough for it to fade away with it. I´m talking about dying, maybe? I’m not sure myself. This is my confession, from me, the writer, to you, the dearest reader, in deep trust, faith, and intimacy. This is a woeful, tremendously bad end to this story, which is also a thematic and stylistic mess, but I’m sure you can forgive me. I’ve forgiven myself for who I was and became better than them. I kept being alive and it was worth it. That’s the morality here.
So, as a little Devil in the water in front of your eyes, be it tears or something worse, I ask of you to keep being the alive one. Have mercy on yourself. That’d be cool of you, for you.