Thrice I’ve nearly drowned.
Twice as a child and once as an adult.
I recall little of the first time. For some reason, our family had stayed overnight in Parkes New South Wales. I’m still surprised I can remember. I was only 3 or 4. Maybe it was having my first shower before going to the pool.
I do remember that I had never seen a pool before. And without fear I jumped right in. And my mother jumped straight in after me to retrieve me. As she continues to remind me.
All I can remember is being totally relaxed. There was no fear. It’s best described as falling asleep under water.
The next time was at the beach. Christmas time we used to travel to Sydney and spend our holidays at a house in Newport. I can remember playing near the edge of the water. Suddenly a small wave knocked me down. I fell over and remember just lying in the water. Again I completely relaxed. But this time the wave receded. I woke up coughing and spluttering.
That’s how children drown.
The third time was brought to mind by the drowning simulator video. I glimpsed only a few frames and that was enough. I was utterly freaked out by it. Perhaps I had repressed the memory as it took many days to recall.
It happened while I was living in Wollongong. One day, a few days past Christmas, I took it on myself to visit South Beach. Alone.
With the king tides, the waves were breaking higher and stronger than I had ever seen them. But I felt I could take them on. And I did.
I swim out further than usual. The waves are moving and breaking quickly. I jump up to go over them. And now I’m being lifted off my feet by waves twice or three times my height. I’m weightless.
Then I’m smashed. Two breaking waves hit me in a row. I resurface and I’m bobbing up and down. I’m a yo-yo in the water. I’m shocked. I’m trying to stop taking in water. I’m silent. I’m mesmerised and again enveloped in the moment. But this time by panic. And unable to raise my arms for help. It just doesn’t occur to me.
Then a quick breath. I push myself slowly towards the shore. Closer and closer until my feet touch the bottom. I walk back to shore and don’t return. Not for years. Even now I still hate being out of my depth.
That’s how adults drown.