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Not a PUSSY

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Not a PUSSY | story.one

A pair of limp panties hang from the rearview mirror directly in my line of vision. The Beastie Boys blare through the speakers while dust and oily fast-food wrappers hop to the beat on the dashboard. A cat-face printed on the front of the panties makes me wonder if the word PUSSY translates so blatantly in Slovenian as it so clearly does for me in English.

That morning we were picked up at our campground by 3 teenage rafting guides and squeezed into two beat-up vans. I clutch a damp wetsuit and a helmet in my lap, as we set off on a curvy, two-lane highway. Heavy black clouds crown the mountains in the distance. The Soca river, a turquoise ribbon winding through grey stones, looks photoshopped into the landscape.

How ON EARTH did I get talked into a rafting trip? I turn around to check on the guilty party; my 12 year old son and my husband. Like happy sardines in a tin, they are packed shoulder to shoulder with other tourists. Droplets of rain spatter the dust on the windshield and my hopes for a cancellation are rising.

Twenty years before I was a passenger in a car accident on a windy canyon in Utah. The car skid out of control, catapulted off the road and landed in a wild river. I escaped through a small hatch on the roof when the water began to fill the cabin. The car tossed about like a toy ship. I jumped . Trapped under the freezing water for minutes, I battled the rapids, fighting to keep my head from being crushed by the wheels of the car floating inches from my head.

A quietness overtakes me under the water. If time existed, it would have been measured in the flash of an electrical spark. If language existed under the river it would have whispered, ‘let go’.

But I didn’t let go. I bolted into action, my first breath a primal groan for air. I clamped onto rocks with my fingernails only to be dragged off again. Finally, with my last strength, I held onto a large rock. The car passed me in the rapids and I crawled onto the shore.

Two decades later, it’s still impossible not to think of dying. The accident runs like a film in my head until a memory begins to take shape at the edge of my consciousness. I realize that one important element was missing while I was in the river; Fear. It came later, slinking in the back door like a sly cat at the very last minute. Fear swelled and grew afterwards like the yellow-blue bruises on my legs as the shock and cold fell away. Fear gripped me, but only in the realization of what could have been.

With this simple revelation, I morphed from fearful victim to strong survivor. This time, if fear comes calling I’ll have my guns drawn Clint Eastwood style. By the time I exit the van, I'm in a state of mental and physical bravado. I'm prepared to hunt down my fear, grab it by the tail, tie a stone to its feet and send it to the bottom of the Soca.

As the raft takes off down the river, I look over my shoulder, but fear isn’t there. We heave-ho into a giant wave, but fear is still a no-show. Wildly alive, paddling into the next set I think to myself -who’s the pussy now?

© Marie Motil 2020-07-08

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