I am fascinated by the concept of our present selves visiting and reflecting on our former selves in real time. How and why memories may dwell on the benign. Below is an exercise in just that: Writing about visiting my younger self, who never knew how hard she was pushing.
I am in a navy dockyard. It smells like rotten sea and garbage, sounds like work and laughter.
There is a little girl there. Well, she would say a young woman. Her uniform barely fits and her sea boots were heavy enough to give her a strut.
I follower her to a ship; grey and rusty and bustling with life. She is smiling and laughing, some peer trying to find her limit again. They don’t know, but she traded limits for smiles decades before.
Her hair is yanked back into a bun so tight that there is a crown of frizz that she tucks behind her ear. “I used gel,” she’d insist.
She is such a lucky girl. She thinks in poetry during the mids; the 12-4am shift. The luminescence enlightens her and she sinks into the tradition of purpose without purpose.
Shit, a man overboard. For practice. She is running, heart racing. She trips over the hatches and runs faster to the side of the ship. Must get this right, always. The Atlantic was rising and falling and so was the ship. She was calculating. Was she strong enough? I looked around and her peers were hanging back. WAS she strong enough?
The sky is just moon and dark and stars. I watched her put on her helmet and be lowered into the frothing sea that took so many- her family. I watched her hang on and grab that man in the sea. She pushed with her legs and pulled with her arms. One leg aboard. The water was like ice. An arm. They’re moving too much. The entire body was aboard – double the size of that little girl. I mean, young woman.
She is determined in a way that surprised and confused me. The motor whizzed and bubbles surfaced as she came back to the ship.
She has me. I have her.