Competition One Commended 2: Evaporation by

I remember the first time I fell into water. The spring in the bottom paddock was unfenced, and I was four. I recall the gasping and the flailing, sinking and re-emerging, and brightly coloured spots of light before my eyes. Then, before the water filled my lungs and my small body sank to rest with the mud and old sheep bones at the bottom, my brother pulled me to the surface. And that was the first time I evaporated at the line between life and death.

Twenty years later, far from the farm I grew up on, I fell from an inflatable raft into a wide, hungry river in Uganda. I tumbled upside down, right side up; as the water saw fit to put me. I swam upwards, or perhaps downwards, seeking the sun and air and brilliant slap of light, light, light, but the water embraced me and pummelled me and I spun in a world in which air and light had ceased to exist. I rested, arms raised in the hope my fingers might breach the surface, and waited, twirling unseen beneath the surface.

When the water tipped me upwards to the sun at the end of the rapids, I climbed back into the boat and nodded to the others, smiled and wiped my face on the cloth handed to me.

Two nights later they collapsed my tent on me as a joke. They rolled me down a dark hillside under African stars, over grass that was not the grass I found grasshoppers in as a child, as I fell from sleep into suffocation and fought with heavy black fabric that covered me and wrapped me and turned me around and around until I disappeared, and no brother came to grab my arms, pull me into light.


Photo credit – The evaporative cycle by Kevin Dooley

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