WEIRD STUFF :: The Tale of the Backwards Flowing River

   One of my earliest memories is of being three and my mother's best friend Diane always being around. They had been best friends since their teen years when they met at a trade school in Vermont. Diane was very short, with lots of freckles, and very long, wild hair. She was also rail thin. I don't remember what her job was, but I do remember she had her own house, which we often visited. It was easier for my mother and her friends to party there than in our single-room apartments.

   Diane's house was located in Hillsborough, NH. It was a large, dusty old Victorian, located across the street from the backwards flowing river. I have to note, that to this day, I do not know if this river really does flow backwards. It was just often how it was referred to. The river was rapid with lots of huge boulders and scary trees sticking up from it. The street separating her house from the river was nearly abandoned. I never saw another car.

   Behind her house was an old broken garage with a studio apartment upstairs. This is where her slightly older sister resided. I can't, for the life of me, remember her name. She was an artist of sorts. I remember noting some colorful paintings she had covering her walls to hide the cracks and vermin. She looked exactly like Diane, just with a more mature face. She clearly had some more life experience. She was also more interested in talking to me than the other grown-ups. She would give me projects to do while the others were doing god-knows-what.

   It was October, and we were clearly there for some kind of wild festivity. My mother was dressed in all black and my Auntie Lizz and Uncle Dave were in costumes (I wish I could remember what they were). I was wearing a pumpkin dress and black tights that would transcend time and fashion for toddlers. The trees were brightly lit with violent hues of reds and oranges. I remember the phrase "Indian summer" being tossed around a lot so it must have been fairly mild.

   The party goers were inside undergoing their early twenties debauchery. I think I saw my Mom doing coke with her boyfriend, Steve Natola. Diane's house smelled like hard liquor, which stung my nostrils, so I went outside to play. Diane's sister was working on her new seasonally-appropriate art project. She was "pressing leaves." We walked around looking for fallen beauties. She had to excuse herself to go into the big house to go to the bathroom.

   I crossed the street with precocious caution to search for the perfect red leaf to please this lady. I stood there, at the banks of the swift-flowing river, and watched the water thoughtfully. I thought to myself, rivers must go the other way if this is backwards. The broken wet trees unsettled me. I've never been a fan of objects emerging from water.

   I looked down to see the prettiest and most perfectly shaped red leaf. I reached for it as the wind carried it into the water. I leaned forward, extending my tiny hand, and fell right in. The current immediately swept me. I was splashing and sinking. The water was filling my lungs. Every time I came up for air I looked for help and there was no one there to save me. I cried out and begged and pleaded. My body was getting tired and my lungs were filling with cold water. I remember feeling like I was finished. It was hopeless. I was so scared. An overwhelming sense of doom filled my very essence and I sank down. I closed my eyes.

   The next thing I know I am sitting naked and freezing on an active dryer with a ratty towel wrapped around me. My mother is sobbing and telling me she's sorry over and over again. She keeps asking me if I'm alright. All of the adults are hugging and kissing me and shoving wrapped candy in my face. "She's gonna be ok!," I hear someone shout. Am I ok though? Will I ever be ok?

   My mother drove this story into the ground at every family gathering for years to come. Apparently, just as I sank under the water, my Uncle Dave came across the street to take a big pee because the bathroom was occupied and saw me. He jumped in and pulled me out. He pushed on my chest until all of the water came out of my lifeless body. According to him, I was gone. Where had I gone? And why was I allowed to come back? What was I supposed to do with this life after dying?

   My entire life I had been soul searching and looking for "missing pieces." I've felt incomplete. I thought I had it figured out multiple times only to realize it was all bullshit. I've had to abandon many lives to find the right path. Everything has lead me here. And I am happy to say that after 35, almost 36 years, I am comfortable and happy. I am me and no one else. I have my soulmate and I brought the most beautiful child into this world. My purpose. I'm certain of it. Death had to happen. It set me in a labyrinth and I found the exit. Everything is as it should be.

- Jess

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