Mama came home from the hospital and sat us all down in a line on the couch. She said the word “accident” and told us about a swimming pool. Daddy had dived straight down. She said the word “quadriplegic.” She told us what it meant. She said the word “permanent.” “But God could fix him, couldn’t he, Mama?” I asked. “Yes… God could…” she said and I asked if we could pray for God to fix Daddy. She said “Yes, honey, we can pray.”
There was a cage around his head. The nurses called it a halo. I thought of angels. Hope, Faith, and Charity. “Those are the angels just for children,” Mama said but I asked God if He could give my angels to Daddy instead. I saw a nurse putting away a stack of towels. I told her I wished my neck was broken too so that I could lay beside my Daddy in the long, white room, so that he wouldn’t be the only one.
The nurses wheeled him out to the patio in his bed, in his halo. They would turn his body so that he could lay on his side. One would hold a cigarette for him. He would smoke and watch us play. When he couldn’t come outside, my brother and I rode in the spare wheelchairs they kept in the dayroom. No one seemed to mind.
I spent the rest of the summer learning how to dive, how to jump high in the air and point my entire body straight down. Then I started doing it with my eyes closed. I tried to hit the bottom but instinct pulled my chin and shoulders back in a smooth arch. I only managed it once. I scraped the side of my face all along the swimming pool’s rough floor. I thought of Charity and held my breath. I said the word “accident.”
Angela Simione is an artist and writer living in New York City.