Slipping under.

In this dream, a space like a residency, a photographers' workshop. A room full of project tables, full of projects. I befriend others easily, concealing my sense that I am the youngest, that I have less fully formed ideas for why I'm there at all.

At night, we screen parts of a film. Somehow, there are Obligations attached to screening this film: perhaps we make presentations or explicate clips.

My family seems to be in attendance, and a new beloved who may be an old beloved, and suddenly at crucial moments, I am disappearing from view altogether. That is to say: I am still present, but I am not visible. Nor am I audible. When I begin to rematerialize, my sound comes first, and my brother is the first one to start hearing me again. The beloved is the last to hear or see me, which seems disastrous because he is crucial to something that must happen when it is my turn to perform my Obligations related to the film's screening. And so I spend no small amount of time at his heels, but invisible, inaudible, quietly, self-possessedly inconsolable. My time in that place seems to be passing so swiftly.

And then we are on the water, my father and a young couple and their small child, and we are in a pair of boats, and it would seem that we are on a lake that is still the water for which I long. And then the child and I are in the water together, beside one of the boats, swimming along. When she slips my hold, I discover that whatever inflatable thing she has worn is not a life preserver at all: she does not float. I see her getting smaller and smaller; someone swears in the background. And so I do what must be done, take an immense breath, do what I was trained to do, kick and pull myself downward toward the tiny falling body.

And I return to the surface with her, but she is not breathing, and then I am treading water, grateful to be so strong--mercifully, never wondering how it is that I have become so strong--and I am having no trouble holding my chest and shoulders out of the water so that I can breathe life back into this motionless child. And I am administering mouth-to-mouth again, and again, and then doing chest compressions, one after another after another, and the whole time I'm trying to remember: which is it that we're meant not to do now--breaths, or compressions? [It turns out that we still do both, but now the ratio is 30 chest compressions for every 2 rescue breaths, instead of 15:2 as it was back in the day.]

I pause to check her pulse, and somehow she has become smaller and smaller while I have tried to revive her, so that now she is bird-sized, she has perhaps become a bird, she is like a small figurine of a bird: hollow like that, and motionless. For a moment, I think she has a pulse. Then I realize that the beat I feel comes from my own breaking heart.

(Bless you, Maxine Kumin: what serendipity.)