It happened on a summer afternoon when
he was twelve. Eager to be like the rest, to belong,
he was determined to go through with it.
And aftwards, nothing. Except the loneliness that comes
from getting what you want. A mistake of youth. [The same
feelings he would feel years later in a baptism of another kind.]
The old preacher had closed his left hand over
his nose. His strong right hand held his back as he was plunged
beneath the water of a pool at the bottom of a waterslide.
It was the waterslide at the camp he had gone
to every summer. The chlorine-laced holy water
burned as it filled his nostrils. It stung his eyes, too.
The year before at the lake an older woman had panicked
when put under. Scratching, clawing, flailing. They struggled
to hold on to her. The water muffling her cries for help.
He had thought that proper and fitting. The fear. The
fight. The resistance. Casseroles and jellos and mayonnaise-
based salads awaited at the top of the hill in the pavilion.
He climbed the stairs alone. The wet bathing suit felt cold, like
a threatening emptiness, against his legs in the shade of the trees. A
towel draped on his shoulders, he vowed to keep his mistake a secret.