By Pao Saechao
I recently took a trip to Portland to see some old friends. I guess that’s the gist of my trips these days. I’m not really looking for new adventures, I’m just looking to keep those old relationships. Maybe I’m doing it wrong but I can live with that for the time being.
I didn’t do much up there, but as I said I’m not really looking for any new adventures. I did get to meet up with several friends for drinks, food and general merriment. I probably drank a little too much, but hey, I was on vacation.
I did happen upon a random bar after walking a friend of mine to work when we finished coffee. “Where can I find a drink?” I asked.
“There’s a little bar two blocks down,” she pointed. “It’s a little red house on the left side of the street. You can’t miss it.”
I turned the corner and there it was, a little red house on the left side of the street. I didn’t miss it. There were two doors at the front of the building and I took an educated gamble by choosing the one with a door knob. Whenever I walk into a bar I’ve never been before, I generally take a glance at the beer taps. It’s just an old habit to orient myself (For my first round, I usually just order whiskey with a few ice cubes and a cheap draft beer to chase.), besides I wouldn’t want to accidentally stare down someone when I’m a stranger in the place.
I got startled when a woman screamed my name.
“Teresa!” I yelled back when recognition came.
She was with her husband and a couple other old drinking buddies, but they were far from the neighborhood I was used to seeing them. I bought a round and they bought a round and I bought a round and we were back to our old dance.
That sums up my summers now. It just seems like an old dance.
I remember when I was younger and summer seemed to last forever, each filled with its own little adventures. There were years when all we did was run around the neighborhood until dinner was ready and then we’d get out and run around again until the sun went down.
Okay, maybe that’s more routine in retrospect.
There were several summers when it seemed like I spent almost every waking hour either fishing or at the park playing basketball or volleyball. All with my older brother. I think his summers are stilled filled with adventure. He has kids who’ve picked up those activities of our youth, plus he’s a high school teacher so he still has a built-in summer vacation.
My summers now seem no different than any other seasons, especially now that I work from home and rarely get to see the change of seasons aside from the few cigarette breaks I have on my apartment balcony. But I still have the memories of summer from my youth.
It was during summer when I almost drowned… twice.
The first time, I was playing in an irrigation canal on a pig farmer’s property. My cousins and I were walking in the canal when I stepped beyond the concrete floor and dropped under the water’s surface. I flailed a couple times in a horrified panic, and when all hope was lost the pig farmer’s daughter caught hold of my arm and pulled me out. My parents and I went back to the farm a couple days later to sacrifice a chicken to appease the nature spirits and retrieve my soul.
The second time was also at an irrigation canal. My friends and I rode our bikes a couple miles from our apartments in hopes of catching minnows with the wire mesh from a screen door. Instead we found a whirlpool where water was released from a small dam. Some of the older kids got in the water, which couldn’t have been more than thigh high. No one mentioned how slick the ground was where they stood. The second I had both feet in the water, my legs were swept. I was on my way down the canal but luckily one of my friends, Ou, was in my path and snatched me by the arm. We all swore not to tell anyone because we weren’t supposed to be that far away from the neighborhood. Of course, my parents found out anyway and a week later we went back to the spot to sacrifice a chicken to appease the nature spirits and retrieve my soul.
A year later, it was at the beginning of summer when I learned how to swim.
At the completion of fifth grade my friend Liz had an end-of-the-year pool party to celebrate the beginning of summer.
There must have been 20 some odd kids there and a few parents. We were all in our swim trunks and swimsuits. The girl I had a crush on was unable to make the party so I was already kind of bummed. One of my other classmates who lived next to her would have to give her my gifts: a box of chocolates from See’s Candies and a sappy cassette single by The U-Krew called “If You Were Mine”. I was the opposite of smooth in my youth. I hung out on the shallow end of the pool and watched all the other kids jump off the diving board. They didn’t know about the drowning incidents. Well, my aunt (who’s the same age as me and was in the same class) knew, but unless all the kids were good at being hush hush, none of the other kids did.
It wasn’t long until the kids prodded me into getting on the diving board, and I stood there for all of them to see. I can still hear their cajoling and see their smiling faces. It seems like I was up there forever, but it couldn’t have been more than ten seconds or so.
I still remember my thought process. It’s a small pool. Jump in head first and swim underwater until you reach the shallow end like you’ve done at the community pool at McNamara Park. The parents are only 30 feet away if you don’t make it.
Finally, I took the steps and jumped into the water. I immediately came to the surface, but my arms circled, my body twisted accordingly and my legs kicked. No chickens would need to be sacrificed.