'Blue' by Brandy Wilkinson

I left the pool an hour ago, and the end of my braid has dried crispy, like a broom. I shiver in the cold air of the basement, scooting deep into the fold of a patchy blanket. A scrap quilt, my mother calls it; Granny conjured each tiny block from fabric leftover from work shirts and dresses. Not a slip was wasted, my mother says. The Depression. The chlorine from the pool has pulled my skin tight, and as I shift under the blanket I can feel the skin of my back break into pixels, adjusting. Here in the basement it is as cool and quiet as the bottom of the pool, where none of the others are brave enough to swim. They are afraid of the deep; they think of toothy sharks and scoop-mouthed whales even in a pool, but I know that even the shallow end can be littered with slimy leaves and jumpy water-bugs. So I dive alone, again and again, longer each time, leaving just enough air to return. Now, another hour or so will pass before I am missed, until a voice calls me up from the basement. Always back to the surface. How long did I hold my breath this time? I ask my mother. She always answers quickly, pretending to have counted.

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