"My borrowed life,"
as the words are sliding out of her mouth that she is essentially repeating
each thing the man, Dikko, has said. She tries to focus her eyes and her
thoughts, tries to get a grip on her circumstance. It seems to her somehow that
this conversation is important, even though in her stupor she doesn't
understand how she figures that. Tracy
The light begins to focus and images solidify and come into play.
is still on the gurney that she can't see, but now they are near a pool in the
The light changes from the blue-white from the machine of light, to a bright yellow. It is a summer sun, and she recognizes the scent of chlorine and pine trees cutting through the putrid urine and blood stench of the ambulance.
The noises of people splashing and playing in the pool come into focus. They call out to each other.
A hairy man with several gold chains and an ambitious hair-do is sauntering around the pool, trying his best to look casual as he dips a bare toe into the water every few steps. None of the glossy females seem to take notice. He nonchalantly looks like he was expecting more of a reaction.
There is a woman sitting at the shallow end, her feet dangling in the pool, her yellow swimsuit blending in with the sunny day. She holds a book and barely takes notice as a few drops of water from the gigolo bounce onto her leg. The suit is an old fashioned seer-sucker with large white buttons.
notes that it would cost a fortune in a vintage clothing store. Tracy
The sun sneaks behind a cloud, and as the scene gets darker it is somehow easier to see.
notices it. A small hand in the water.
It's a few feet away from the edge, just past the shallow end, where the base
of the pool slopes off to offer deeper water. Tracy
The hand is joined with another and a small head that can't break the surface of the water. The child's hands are splashing frantically, windmilling back, splashing, but not efficiently enough to bring her little body up, not enough for her to lift her lips to precious air.
No one notices.
A colorful ball is still thrown. A tow-headed boy, as brown as dirt, cannonballs into the water. Music plays. Yellow seersucker bathing suit turns a page.
And a little girl is dying.
A little girl died in her pink and white polka dot bikini, with a ruffle on the butt, and a top that tied in the back that she tied all by herself.
Her mother used to struggle to wash and dry her long blonde hair, her gentle waves that fall to her tiny waist. It is an argument the woman will lament for the rest of her life. The memory will send her into a hysterical spiral of self-blame and pity. If she could only comb through the precious tangles one more time. She will never be able to stop thinking this, even as the very memory rips her heart again and again.
The little girl dies. Her hands are barely moving.
wants to get up, move, leap from the gurney and jump in the water to save her.
She doesn't realize it, but tears are streaming down her face in hot streaks.
She can't help. Tracy
She can't save herself.
The little girl is dead, and
is paralyzed and
prevented from doing anything. Tracy
She hears great, wrenching sobs, and looks, thinking it is the mother who has finally turned around to look for her girl, and has instead discovered the grim truth. But it's not. It's
, and it feels like
every sob is ripping her apart. The burning and sticky thud of her injured
shoulder is nothing compared to the tear in her gut. Tracy
Then the man, the gigolo, the Bee Gee wannabe who spent an hour in front of the mirror making sure his hair was feathered just right, and sprayed into place, abandons his quest to get laid.
He is the only one who sees the girl in the water, and he awkwardly leaps, falls, jumps, belly flops into the water. Dana "Papa" Georgio becomes an unthinking hero.
As soon as his entire body is wet, he's leapt out of the water again. The entire operation was one fluid motion. In the water. Scoop. On deck.
He tips the tiny neck back, and breathes into her mouth. She's so small, he doesn't know: cover her mouth? Don't cover her mouth?
It doesn't matter. His actions were so swift that two puffs are enough to send a stream of water out of her nose and mouth, and then she's coughing and snotting, crying and screaming hysterically.
The frolickers finally notice the little girl's drama, and gather to ooh and gawk, and gather to offer help.
Her mother was talking to a friend. Her wide sunhat adorned with a colorful scarf flies off unnoticed as she stumbles over to the spot where her little girl's life has just been saved. She explains through her own tears that she was watching, she thought she was watching the whole time. The woman is nearly hysterical with relief, perhaps knowing somewhere deep inside her sub-conciousness how dire the situation could have been, and almost was.
Unknowingly this act has also saved her own life, for if the little girl had been allowed to die, the mother would herself sink into a world of grief, so convinced that her little precious is now an angel. She would commit suicide after a few years of diving into a bottle, and struggling and clawing at therapy and sanity.
feels like she and Dikko and their
machine of light are retreating, pulling away, like a tunnel again. The pool
fades, if it ever existed at all. Tracy
"I remember that. That man… he saved me. I remember his breath tasted like an orange tic-tac and he smelled like coconut," she says incredulously, "I started taking swimming lessons at the indoor pool downtown, and wasn't allowed in the water by myself for years."
"That was your first life, it was a shame to have it taken so young," Dikko says stoically.
"But I didn't die. The man saved me. My mother sent him a Christmas card for at least twenty years."
"You don't think you died, because you didn't meet one of me then. It’s never explained to someone until they reach their last life, their borrowed life," Dikko says matter-of-factly.
imagines that he's
had this conversation before. Perhaps many times. Tracy
"How many lives does someone get?"