It Never Happened


Co-winner Writing to the Right Hand Margin Prize in Fiction
Published: April 22, 2010

Joseph Heller can (appropriately) go to hell. Because:

Something (this thing)



Nothing ever happens, in fact. You are not standing with your little feet on the hot pool deck, sand covered toes aligned perfectly with the pool’s edge. You can not feel the freezing water lapping gently just below your scalding feet. If you look closely into the water you will not see dead mosquitoes float around the filter or a grungy old raft hitting up against the side over and over again. You will not feel the heat of the sun pounding into your shoulders. The heat will not cause you to see black dots where you should only see the artificial blue of the water. You can not see or feel these things because they do not exist. There is no pool. No pool filter. No raft. No dead mosquitoes. No burning feet or shoulders. No you.

An hour ago, your parents were not fighting loudly in your third floor hotel room which does not exist. The fight was not about something stupid, because in reality it never actually started at all (but if it had, it would have erupted over a bloody wine stain on the carpet in the morning). Your father’s face didn’t twist up and turn the color of stop signs and your older sister’s Brothel Red nail polish. He didn’t scream at her (the bad words which got you into trouble at school). He never shoved her against the railing of the balcony which is not real (but if he had, he would have shoved her hard and told her he wanted so badly to hit her). She didn’t burst into tears and tell you never to tolerate abuse. You never secretly hated her for her tears, because they never fell down her cheeks.

You still aren’t standing on the pool deck. There is no hotel behind you, no little boy (even littler than you) peering anxiously down from a fifth story balcony (but if he had been, he would have been singing something which seemed vaguely soothing). At this moment you are not leaping into the freezing water, which does not shock you once you are (not) fully submerged. You are not holding onto the ladder, trying desperately to stay under… not willing yourself to breathe in that icy reality so you can stay away from the raging sunlight forever.

This has never come to pass. These childhood memories are not yours, but they must belong to someone. Who can say whose they are? Not yours. Not mine. Maybe nobody’s.