The night before,
I was night swimming
Wet lycra skimming
curves of a girl, in waiting

Before sunrise, back seat
Fifty-two degrees. Talk radio.

Buzzed into the ward,
Half past six, silent except
The squeak of the nurse’s tennis shoes
On sterile floors

I slipped on the thin cotton gown
Midnight hair brushing my bare shoulders
My mother tied the back
with worried hands

There were three of us
A quarterlife in crisis
Waiting for the cure.

I wore lipstick, as if to say
I was okay. I was still there

The ceiling was a pale blue
Like a southern porch,
painted to mimic the color of Heaven

A smiling nurse covered me in a weighted
blanket as the tambourine man
sent warmth through my veins
A haze displacing nerves

“I read in your chart you want to be a writer,”
smiled the doctor as he strapped down
My ankles and wrists, thin straps of leather
The room was blurry, I nodded
“Fantastic. We’ll get you feeling better and you can get on
with it.”

I faded in and out, cuffs to measure the pressure
Of my heart
A band was placed around my head, with what felt like
mounds of cotton on each of my temples
Beep, beep, beep
The smiling nurse said, “Now open wide.”
She stuck a thick, rubber mouth guard in my mouth
beep, beep, beep

The tambourine man placed his hand,
Which looked young and delicate—nothing like my father’s
Who had worked hard his entire life,
on my shoulder
“This will take no time at all. You won’t feel a thing.”
His gaze turned toward the nurse,
A nod.

The room fell into a stark quietness
Heavy eyes, the measured brain waves
Complete darkness.

I was in my childhood swimming pool
The only illumination from the moon and the underwater
pool light casting swirling shadows across the faces
of me and my best friend, as we talked for hours
Warm water lapping at young skin

Waking came fitfully. I was fully dressed,
my shoes tied.
How had I gotten there?
All three of us wondered.

Back seat, sixty-seven degrees
Top forty pop radio

I climbed into my parents’ bed,
A sanctuary of covers and familiarity
You can’t be left alone for twenty-four hours
After your brain has been shocked.

A light rain began to fall, tapping on the roof
Late January air ruffling the curtain sheers
I closed my eyes,
And fell backward into the warm pool.

Night Swimming

Stephanie Watkins

Stephanie Watkins studied Creative Writing in college. She has written for CREEM online, DIW magazine, and others interviewing bands and reviewing albums. She was accepted to the Robert Frost Poetry Conference and continues to write poetry and fiction daily.