The Undrowning by Faith Hanna

Take a little life out of it; it’ll make it feel more real.

I was drowning in the criticism. In criticizing them. The others. The ones that wouldn’t lose. The delusional. The ones we meme against. My judgement is a shallowing of breath. Tense chest. Constricted fingers. Clenched gluts. Holding in. 

Outside, the rain makes sidewalk slick with wet leaves. Trails slippery with mud. Streets glisten with a kind of cleaning. The air is limpid but profuse. Condensation moves in its respective layers: sinuous tufts are highest, then diffuse eddies, thick fog hangs lowest. This is after the downpour.

My own tears feel delayed. As if the quacking begins as undetectable, and requires hours and sometimes days to gain momentum. The build is a fizzy unease, below skin squirming. Low-key, it builds, and builds. So I wake up with itchy eyes. I rub the parched orbs. Oiling them.

And then, when I’m lucky, I cry. Tremble long enough for waves to rush chest, swell up throat, seizing it, burning the back of my mouth until they crest into my eyes, crash down on shores of skin. This is how the water erupts, as if from my lungs; as if pumped up by my heart. The beat, beat, beat pushing up the tides. Rushing them out onto the sandy patches of my cheeks. 

Inhales are dry, and exhales floods of moisture.

Afterwards, I run. Out by pop-up tamale and arroz con leche stand. Past the Sheffield home for convalescents. Through the loose line of workers always on the corner of Folsom and 26th. I run up steep sidewalk carpeted with deep-yellow gingko leaves, fallen foliage looking up to where it used to belong: bare branches against a grey-streaked heaven.

The words in Spanish for drown is ahogar; desahogar literally means to undrown, and technically to release. What’s in your heart. What’s in your chest. The word that means to undrown in Spanish, desahogar, is a word about releasing water.

I wish my clouds rained the way I wanted them to. They take their time. Sometimes I am too clear to feel. And then it storms, positively pouring out. It happens when the heart beat beat beats up a rush of healing.

I was drowning in the clarity of criticism. I was flowing in greyness loving them. The others. Who don’t want to be alone. Or shut down. Or threatened. Or sick. Shoulders unbound. Eyes soft. Belly loose. Fists gone . The waters take me to and then from the Other. Where I can see that we are the same. We want to have the courage of our convictions. But to be all right, we can’t all be right. Let’s cry instead.

Above, the sky is undrowned. Below, the chest is undrowned. Around, skin glistens. 

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