MY EARLIEST MEMORY is of falling (or, more likely, jumping) into the mill pond, and looking at the overcast sky through the water. Grandpa dived in, gold watch and all, and fished me out. Didn't hurt the watch a bit. I nearly drowned at eighteen months of age, and when I was seven, I nearly did it again. In a big public pool in Fresno, I was both entranced by and terrified of the diving board. After nearly a whole afternoon's debating and timid approaches, I finally screwed up my courage and climbed the tall ladder. Once at the top, there was no going back. Kids beneath and kids ahead and then it was my turn and I had no choice, so I ran off the end. Of course, I couldn't swim. Bobbing up and down, my feeble cries washed away by water filling my mouth, suddenly a teenage lifeguard scooped me up in her arms and carried me safe to the poolside. Her skin was cold, like the water, and soft. I went right in again, but carefully along the outside of the kiddie section, trying to learn to swim by paddling along with one hand on the ledge. By the end of the afternoon I'd learned to swim well enough for my purposes, and the feeling of triumph overwhelmed the fears. I went and jumped off again and swam sort of, struggling, gasping, choking, to the edge of the pool. I've never been much of a swimmer. The memory of that cool wet rescuing breast, soft arms and concerned, loving look has colored my perception of womankind forever. I am drawn to water sprites, white skin and erect nipples.

June 8, 1994