Karen Rivers

the weight of water.

Karen Rivers

Your son wants to know why no one goes to the bottom of the sea.  What's down there? he asks.

Sand, you say. 

No, he says.  The bottom of the real sea.  The deep sea.  

I don't know, you say.  Rocks.   Weird looking fish.  With lights in their mouths.   They are designed to not be crushed by the weight of water.

Designed by who?  he says.

Um, you say.   

The light glints off the water.   The questions are getting harder.  You don't have the answers.  

Evolution, you say.  

Did we evolution?  he says.

Yes, you say.  But not the same way.

So we can't go to the bottom?

You shake your head.  Crushed, you explain.  Water is so heavy.

You show him with a toy at the beach.  Your experiment doesn't work.  You prove nothing except that there is no reason to not go to the bottom of the sea.  You wonder if more competent parents could more accurately demonstrate the weight of water using only a smurf, some Lego, and the coldish-murky shoreline.   You try not to think about sewage run-off.  The smurf turns an unappealing shade of slime grey.

You need special stuff, you say.  Non-crushable stuff.  It's like going into space, but ... different.  

Great!  he says.  A suit!  Can I have one for my birthday?

You squint into the sun.  Maybe, you say.  Probably not.

He can accept that.  He nods.   Pauses.   The water laps against the shore.   

Can we go into space?  he says.   If I ask for a space suit instead?

You sigh.  No, you say.  Maybe when you're a grown up.

What's the highest anyone has jumped from?  Into the sea?  Could you jump from the moon?

You explain about surface tension.   You show him on a bubble, the tension on the surface makes water like concrete, you tell him.   You feel smart and in control.   There.  Surface tension, explained.  (You are competent, after all!  Science-y!  You have the answers!)

You see him thinking about it.  The concreteness of water.  Its unforgiving surface, and the way that, if you get under it too far, it will crush you.   

Huh, he says.   If I was on the moon, I'd jump into the sea.  

You think about explaining about re-entering the atmosphere and then you get tired.

Sounds good, you say.

You think maybe you should stop talking before he becomes afraid, so you splash him.  He splashes back and then he goes in in his clothes, which you never really mind, because there he is, waist-deep in a winter sea, laughing and free.   You can't go into the water, waist-deep, in the winter because you are a grown up.  You are not free.  You are meant to shake your head and scold him, but you laugh and take pictures and everyone is wet, which is fine, because there is a bathtub at home and hot water and bubbles and things to be teach his little sister about surface tension. 

Everyone lives.

A few times in the last week, you've had moments of happiness.   There is the sun, which helps, and the dense blueness of the air.   Fat bumblebees and blossoming trees, which all feel like a saving of sorts.   A rescue sent to reassure you that yes, things are beautiful and the air is not water, heavy and crushing and you are breathing.   Still.   Better.

In and out.  Out and in.   Here is spring again, and you are in it, whole and alive.

And you are happy in an uncomplicated way, there in the park, The Birdy running up and down the paths, shouting, OK, now I'm going to turn this tree into pink!  With sparkles!  And a rainbow!  Would you like that?

Yes, you say.

Oh, she says.  But you can't see it, she says.  Only I have the magic.  But you have to say, "Wow, I would think that was beautiful if I could see it."

I would think that was beautiful if I could see it, you say.  

She nods approvingly.

I am turning the path yellow!  she says.  It is yellow now!   SAY IT.   SAY YOU WISH YOU COULD SEE IT.

I wish I could see it, you say.

Now everything is a rainbow!  she says.  

I wish I could see it, you say obediently.  

She nods.  Yes, mummy, she says.  Right.  You WISH.

A bad guy, she adds, has turned this tree red with orange stripes.   I will turn it sparkly!  And what will you say?

I wish I could see it, you say.

She takes your face in her hands and studies your eyes.   I am turning your eyes sparkly, she says.  You can feel her cookie-sweet, sleep-stale breath on your nose.  Your eyes sparkle.  She waves her wand in your face and makes a sound like whoosh whoosh.   It's OK, she says, NOW you can see it.

Oh!  you say.  It IS beautiful, Birdy.  It is.

I have made a rainbow in the sky, she says.  It's round, like the moon.

I can see it, you say.

Yes! she says.  You can.  It is the most beautiful thing ever!  

She runs down the path.  I AM MAKING A HUNDRED MORE! she yells.

You laugh.  

She laughs.

And there you are, laughing and weightless, surrounded by rainbows that are shaped like the moon.