Water on the Skinhttps://i2.wp.com/barrenmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/bn20-1-e1629482577264.jpg?fit=1080%2C777&ssl=11080777Marina FloresMarina Floreshttps://i0.wp.com/barrenmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/MarianaFlores.jpg?fit=96%2C96&ssl=1
Like magnets our mouths find each other beneath cotton candy skies. Only the shallow pool water and a thin layer of sunscreen separate your body from mine. My hands flood over your shoulders and then move to the gulf of your neck. We drift through the pool, my hands tangled in the thick of your tousled hair. You’re like an ocean, a concoction of blush-green hues that illuminate your patient nature, and I trace every part of your exposed skin like a map. The sunset above us surrenders to the soft of night, but you must sense my fear of the plunge. You draw me closer until there’s nothing left to separate us but the gravity of water.
By definition, my name means “a dock or basin that harbors yachts and small boats,” but I told anyone with ears that my name, or its Latin origin, means “from the sea.” I prided myself on being the most mermaid-like swimmer at Green Tree Summer Camp, but of course I never said that aloud to anyone. Monday through Friday, pool water hugged my waist as I swam each afternoon away.
At Green Tree, we learned how to hold our breath and then moved on to perfecting our backstroke, breaststroke, and butterfly stroke. One day, there wasn’t a smear of cloud visible in the fresh canvas sky. Ribbons of light leapt through the water and reflected onto my browned skin. My limbs easily found their cadence, a familiar summertime song of swift and methodical movements. As I swam, the outline of my shadow danced along the pool’s floor and the camp’s perimeter of leaves rustled in the hot breeze.
We practiced drills with the coaches in the four-foot area, then six, then ten. I couldn’t see the bottom of the ten-foot end and hoped a scaled sea monster wouldn’t emerge from the filter and drag me back down by the ankle when the lifeguards turned their heads. I avoided this area, afraid of even glancing in the deep end’s direction. No one seemed interested enough to investigate the unexplored end of the pool, the side full of nothing but gulps of truth.
By my second and third year at Green Tree, the floor of the pool’s deep end was my favorite. I’d jump off the teal diving board, hands over my head, and suspend myself for as long as I could hold my breath. The first surge of chlorine welcomed me back, like a familiar embrace, its velvety texture wrapping me in a liquid cocoon.
Below the surface, I heard muffled shrieks, shouts, and the steady kicking of legs. Cannon balls and bodies colliding with the water’s threshold rang out like sirens. Everything in this realm moved a second or two slower. Submerged in this space beneath the earth, somehow the weight of the world washed away—and nothing else mattered except the burning gulp of air in my chest. Fish, sea creatures, and other organisms never part from the water, and I wished I didn’t have to, either, but the timer in my chest always ran out. When I propelled my body and ascended to the surface, I whipped my head back and drank the seasoned air like water.
When our mouths finally part, memories buoy like beads of time. I am in two places at once. Time fades with the evening, and I am drawn to you like the gentle, rhythmic sensation of water on the skin. My body gives way to the soft, familiar tug of water at my hips. As your hands plunge to the small of my waist and reel me in, I savor the last spice of dusk.
Marina Flores is a creative nonfiction writer, amateur baker, and full-time dog mom. She holds a Master of Arts in Literature, Creative Writing, and Social Justice. Some of her work has appeared in The Coachella Review, Atlas and Alice, and X-R-A-Y. Currently, Marina is an English Language Arts teacher at a high school in her hometown of San Antonio, Texas. She can be found sharing her existential thoughts on Twitter from @marinathelibra.