A friend once told me that we come into this world cast out at sea. If you’re lucky, he said, you’re given swim lessons, a life vest, a group to swim around you and hold your head, arms, feet when you begin to fatigue. If you’re even luckier, you’ve landed somewhere close to the shore, where the water is still, warm and shallow. Those people rarely realize their fortune, it’s all they’ve ever known, and they startle when one of them drowns. Drowning is something that happens to others, not to them. Because they are given the conditions to survive, the freedom to float on their backs in the sunlight or darkness, the surface just an unbroken pane of glass opening onto either side of the world.
If you’re one of the unlucky ones, you’re tossed out to tread open water, throw your body beneath the waves. You teach yourself how to swim, how to find others pushed toward the same fate. Sometimes you gurgle up for air and find a view that for a moment might melt the air from your throat. Then, when the water gets too choppy, too deep, you begin to sink. And there you are below the surface, exhausting yourself just trying to get back. Sinking, sucking in salt, never allowed, never given the means, to not flail and fight for air. You are absolutely and totally free from all control, yet also absolutely and positively unfree.
How can we possibly be angry when, after watching their friends and family choke and hurt and gasp and drown, those damned learn to survive, navigate below water rather than along the surface, let their bodies do what bodies are meant to do. Move, touch another, jolt, lie still, attempt love, mourn, mourn, attempt joy, mourn, try to survive. Scream. Bleed. Love. Fuck. Mourn. Mourn. Mourn. Cry out.
Imagine a world where none of us are cast out at sea. Where we are all free to free to free to live. How do we get there?
But he wasn’t asking me.