Somewhere in the middle of the album I fall asleep, falling down into the deep well of a dream. I was dreaming of Anthony again, only this time we were both at the lake and he was teaching me how to swim.
I woke up just as Anthony was about to place me down gently into the water. I remember feeling strangely at peace in the dream, with none of the usual crippling fear, though I woke up completely disoriented. I was surprised to find myself no longer in the attic but rather in my father's arms. I struggled to right myself, wondering aloud how he had got into the attic if I'd locked the door, but he just held me tight and said, Shh, don't fight me, child. So I didn't.
He laid me on my bed and tucked me in, kissing my forehead before he turned the light out. Words struggled to come out of my mouth, questions tumbling one over the other, but I was inarticulate and the sounds did not make sense. My mother appeared at the door, her figure a hazy silhouette. Sleep, darling, just sleep, she said. So I did.
I fall asleep again but this time it is a dreamless sleep.
I am twenty now and still cannot swim.
I left home at nineteen to study photography in California on a scholarship fund. Jane still lives at home -- she had a baby at age sixteen and married her then-boyfriend. They still live and sleep in her old room, at least till they can save up enough money for a place of their own.
I miss her and I miss my family and Jethro and dandelions and the sounds of crickets and the stillness that only nights in Tennessee possess. I miss Old Man Emmett, too, who passed away last spring. Jane laid a bouquet of dandelions for me on his grave.
She had the baby a few months after I left. A boy. She named him Anthony.
It is June, it is the month that he died. I am standing at the shore of the Pacific Ocean, miles away from home. The waves curl around my toes, its white foam tickling me. Moments like these I almost want to dive right in, but water is water anywhere and I carry my fear of it even here.
My breath gets caught somewhere in between my lungs and my mouth, and I can feel the old tears pulling at my throat again, so I will myself to be calm. To relax. I wonder if I will be forever rendered helpless by my inability to swim, then decide that I can't be, for Anthony's sake. For my sake, too.
Closing my eyes, I turn my face up to the sun and receive its warmth like a blessing. Opening them again I notice how the ocean is the same color as Anthony's eyes and wonder why I didn't notice it sooner. I take a deep breath and wade in.