Noun. The state of being no longer alive; the destruction or permanent end of something.
It’s not just about what you remember, but what you are later told. It’s the type of story that becomes a permanent part of the script at family gatherings. Wedged somewhere between the one about the time when you were three, and broke into the improvised jingle of, “Washington DC, here I come!” while deplaning at National Airport. And the one about the time you were nine, and P.J. Muer marched up to your locker at St. Paul’s Catholic School just after lunch to plant a surprise kiss on your cheek, prompting a fourth grade class meeting about why we shouldn’t do certain things without asking for permission.
This is the one about the time you were five, on vacation with your parents (still married) and older brother Matt (two years your senior) in northern Virginia A well-traveled child for such a young age, but one that still believed Michigan was the world, a state all other states lived inside of, despite maps and globes proving otherwise.
This is the one about the outdoor hotel pool large enough to have a diving board at one end, the shallow area clearly marked off by a royal blue and white braided rope threaded through matching plastic buoys.
A mother and a father keeping an eye on things from teal terrycloth towels draped over plastic chaise lounges, sitting next to each other but not together.
A brother ducking underneath the safety rope in his goggles and snorkel, in search of sunken pool treasures: silver barrettes and black elastic hair ties, charm bracelets betrayed by broken clasps, loose change.
A you standing securely, waist deep. Wanting to know what else goes on in the deep end.
The rapid discovery of what sunlight bending through water looks like from underneath. Exquisite, and final.
This is the one about the time you first got in over your head, and a father who dove in fully clothed to rescue you. This is about a brother with new artifacts to retrieve: brass wire-frame eyeglasses, a pair of docksiders, a gold link watch that would never again keep time quite right.
This is the one about how you learn the act of drowning is more silent than one might think. That a submerged mouth only breaks the surface when trying to breathe. How this requires successfully propelling oneself back to the surface in the first place. And that the very elements the body requires to stay alive can also be used against it.