Analysis of a Drowning Scene
I plopped against the water like a green coconut and sank like an elephant bolder. I spurted upward, thrashing and flailing as I tried to grab air, water, help, something, anything. Down into the belly of the watery darkness I dipped and gulped. I came back up, gasping. Down. Gulp. Up. Gasp. Down. Gulp. My lungs heaved under the burden of its unfamiliar cargo of salted silted water. My mind screamed words that my flooded larynx could not utter. (The Talking Palm: How the childhood storms of a young woman’s life remained hidden until a palm fruit started talking p 68)
This is a partial description of a drowning scene in the life of a twelve-year old Caribbean girl. It is the last day of the school year. Sheryl and her classmates have cleaned their school furniture on the gray beach of Salisbury village in Dominica. Since forced labor is over, all that is left for the pupils to do now is to have fun in the vast Caribbean Sea. Some of Sheryl’s friends are already enjoying the soft sea water.
While Sheryl’s friends frolic in the water, Sheryl is content to relax on that part of the shore where her feet can stand on sand in water. Thank you. You see, Sheryl has decided she will only go into water where she can stand firmly on sand. Wading deeper into water requires Sheryl to stay afloat. Staying afloat requires swimming skills. How can one float in water will when one cannot swim?
But Sheyrl’s excuse that she cannot swim is not enough for Linda, one of Sheryl’s friends. She insists that Sheryl come far into the water where all of Sheryl’s friends are. How can Sheryl so deprive herself of the volley of fun her friends are clearly having in that cool water? Linda asks. Can’t Sheryl hear the shrieks and laughter of joy coming from the water? Isn’t she envious of such happiness? Sheryl should, according to Linda. To Linda, it is unacceptable that her friend stand on a dry dilapidated jetty while normal kids are dancing in water.
So Linda decides to take matters into her own hands. Thank you very much. She will make sure Sheryl has a day of fun to remember. So Linda entices Sheryl to venture further down the jetty, to the point closest to the deepest part of the sea. Although Sheryl is scared of falling through the cracks on the jetty, she nonetheless trusts her friend. After all, Linda knows that Sheryl cannot swim. Sheryl is sure of that. She’s made sure Linda knows that as well as she knows her ten fingers. Off course Linda knows that. Linda knows that Sheryl cannot swim. That is why she is calling Sheryl forward. Right? Sheryl can’t read Linda’s mind. Can she?
Sheryl tepidly follows Linda’s instructions to join Linda at that point of no return. Linda gives her friend no sign of what she is thinking. Sheryl has no reason to suspect her friend of any mischievous intent to take Sheryl into a situation Sheryl has never been in before. Why should Sheryl expect that all she is going to do is join her friend at the end of the peer? Why shouldn’t that be the only purpose for Linda’s call? That is what I would think of a friend whom I have known for so long and trusts so much. Wouldn’t you?
But the moment Sheryl entrusts her friend with her body, allowing short Linda to wrap her hands around the waist of Sheryl’s tall body, things change. Sheryl finds her feet no longer rooted to something solid. Instead, they are in the air, flailing whichever way they choose, as Sheryl hurtles nonstop toward the unsuspecting bodies of salted water and startled friends. Linda’s embrace had become a push.
The very experience the protagonist’s fear indicates she is trying to avoid in the first place is the very situation that greets her.
By Esther Jno-Charles
The Talking Palm: How the childhood storms of a young woman’s life remained hidden until a palm fruit started talking by Esther Jno-Charles