There was a moment at the resort in San Diego, where Simone was tearing it up on the kiddie water slide–fearless in her mimicry of bigger kids sliding backwards or head-first. One of those “oh shit” moments that makes the world slow down like those terrible movies with Nicholas Cage.
Earlier on in the afternoon an older girl, Steffie, had taken Simone under her wing. She helped her with the concrete steps leading to the slide (even though it wasn’t needed), she made sure the older boys didn’t budge in front and leave Simone standing nervously waiting for her turn. It was all rather lovely–Simone constantly telling us that Steffie was her “good friend” and trying to hold her hand at every turn.
At the base of the slide, a host of parents jostled into position to catch their toddlers when their turns were up. A bit of a gong show, but funny. Amidst the shuffle, conversation and comparisons. Cursory questions of age, of ability, compliments. Casual conversation. I noted that Simone was third in line and the kid at the front was having second thoughts.
Turning to the side for a moment, I chatted with another Dad about something trivial–something I cannot remember. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Simone half way down the slide, arms wide, and before I could spin and catch her she was in the pool, arms wheeling under the water which churned opaque from the water pouring off the slide. Then everything got really slow. I reached madly underneath it all, trying to find a limb. My hand found something; an arm. I hoisted up and Simone came out like a breach baby, spluttering and looking wild.
No crying from her. But those wild eyes were surprised, confused even. The strangeness of being under the water for so long, the innate knowledge of having to hold her breath and wait. Crazy stuff.
She’s made no mention of it since, and I doubt it had any lasting effect. But what a moment. The way the heart hammers.