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  • You, the lawyer, have left the river’s rocky shore and are stroking through the water the way you were taught. Stroke, turn neck, face under armpit, breathe again, stroke again, turn again, breathe. Keep your face down between strokes, looking at the river’s murky bottom, so few feet away, your stroke goes slap, slap, slap, and your kick, flutter, flutter, flutter, stirring the top layer of mud, raising it up to meet you. Rafts and kayaks, inner tubes and canoes are the transport of choice. Only you are swimming. The wake of a houseboat in desperate need of paint takes you by surprise and kicks water up your nose. You stop, bob to the surface, shake your head as if you were a golden retriever who has reached the shore but not yet located its master. You choke a little. That's what the water does. The river is not your home.

    You, the swimmer, do not recall you were once a lawyer. You left the sandy shore of the crystal blue lake and are lazily lapping your way through the deepening water using the side stroke your mother taught you before you entered grade school. Motor boats and jet skis, pulling vacationers across the surface of the lake chop the water, slowing whatever progress you might want to be making. Someone on the shore is playing You’re Just To Good to Be True and you realize, with the clarity that sudden apprehension always brings, that it never stopped being 1967 and you have never been anything other than fifteen. Bobby Kennedy is alive. And Martin Luther King, Jr. Your parents say Negroes are ok so long as you don’t want to marry one or any of them want to reside in your parents' rental property or move into a house on your street. These seem to be signs of “not ok.” Lots of “not ok.” You remember your skin is white, your hair is red. But you cannot recall your gender.

    You, the person who cannot recall your gender, are swimming in the ocean. You run through the surf and dive under the first breaking wave. When you bob to the surface, the sun glints off each small peak of salt water. It tastes just like you recall tears do even though you cannot recall a single instance in which you have cried, even when mincing onions. Surfers on short boards, painted like New York subway cars in 1977, form a crooked line behind swells too small to ride. A kid in an ocean kyack is heading toward the shore, steadying a boom box with one hand, navigating with the other. You can hear the strains of Dancing Queen whenever there is a lull between breaking waves. You are 25 years old. You have always been 25 years old and it has always been 1977. You think you might be headed toward law school and the recollection makes your intestines twist, your bowels loosen.

    In the river, in the lake, in the Pacific, you allow yourself to sink under the water’s surface and wonder what it would be like to drown.
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