What Water Taught Me About My Irrational Fears
Flávia Monteiro reflects on how being raised by a moody mother left her unable to tell real threats from imagined ones.
I’m swimming laps in my building’s pool when I see bubbles, and then a blur, a leg, a moving leg. A foot slightly hits the tip of my index finger. I lift my head to find two boys, probably nine and seven years old, laughing with their sharp little teeth.
The two have been circling me and been dive-bombing into my imaginary lane—what would be my lane if the pool cordoned off a separate laps section—ever so close to bumping into me but never bumping into me. The parents are nowhere to be seen. I’ve been left alone with the kids, and although I’m 35, I despair. Like I’ve been pushed into the open sea at night: I can’t clearly discern the shapes and noises and things-touching-my-leg, and so I dread them. Am I prey? I know these are kids, not sharks. Still, I’m intimidated by their unpredictable behavior.
It’s always been obvious to me that there’s a code of conduct every child signs off to, but to which I hadn't been privy.
Unpredictable to me, at least. Maybe because I was such an inadequate child, I never really got to learn the rules of childhood. And so I’m afraid of kids. After all these years, they terrify me.