Fingers crossed / by Christina Rosalie

I remember going down a water slide for the first time: I was six or seven, it was the apex of summer and very hot. We were in L.A., at someone’s backyard pool, with the babysitter. I didn’t know how to swim—or at least, I didn’t know how to swim without support (I remember clinging to plastic milk jugs to buoy me up—the cheap version of waterwings, for sure.)

“Go for it,” she told me casually from the edge where she dangled her long legs in the water. Her toes were painted red. I adored her. "When you hit the water, hold your breath and kick you feet, and don’t stop kicking.”

I believed her entirely.

And I wanted to go down the slide so badly. I imagined its blue fiberglass hull was the back of a dolphin. Resolute, I climbed up the rungs of the ladder; up to the top.

I could see over the fence from there, into the neighbor’s yard—I could see their turquoise pool and waterslide, and beyond it, another pool in another yard. This is what certain neighborhoods were like in L.A.: back yard pool after pool, separated by high fences or concrete walls. A patchwork of postage stamp yards—with a stitching of bougainvilleas and roses between them.

But we didn't have a pool. And we didn’t live in a neighborhood like this. My dad always had a fierce attachment to having land (something I seem to have inherited), so we lived on two acres at the top of a mountain in Northridge, with a wild yard full of bamboo and prickly fruit and loquats. Instead of having pools, our neighbors kept horses.

So the whole pool thing was wildly exotic to me. A dream come true. The perfect antedote to the oven-hot of mid day. The perfect balm to scratched knees and boredom. The perfect escape.

Once I’d decided, I went for it, just like that. No second guessing. No long minutes wavering at the top. I climbed up, crossed my fingers, and slid down—the speed sending me hurtling towards the water, replacing breath with giddy glee. Then I hit with a splash and sank. Down I went, and down, and down.

But I held my breath.

And I started kicking.

And suddenly I was moving up and up, towards the blue bright surface where the water and air pressed together in a thin line. Then I burst through, gulping and ecstatic. I was swimming.

I'm still like this. When I decide to go for something, I simply do. I don’t waver. I don’t linger at the top wondering what if?. I just jump in.

Then I hold my breath and start kicking---which is pretty much where I’m at right now with my whole job search. I went to a school today that I’d love to teach at—close to home, and rich with opportunities for professional development. But it’s in the most competitive district in the state—and they've received close to 200 applications for just that one position. So I’m mostly just holding my breath. And kicking.

And keeping my fingers crossed.