by Dina Toyoda



The water is so cold, it takes my breath away. I walk deeper into the waves. My companion is gayly splashing nearby, exchanging smug, meaningful glances and Chechen words with his friends. A few minutes ago we were together on my beach towel, hidden from others by a thorny bush.

I take another step, and suddenly can’t feel the sea bottom! I bob in the water only a couple of feet from the man, but can’t cry out for help, won’t cry out. When he was inside of me, I knew, some important part of me died, although I didn’t know why. What did it matter now, if I stopped existing all together?

He finally notices that I’m in trouble and pushes me toward the shore. I grab the towel with its tiny blood stain and run to my bungalow.

Later in the evening he finds me there. I resist, but he slaps me so hard, I see the stars, and he rapes me all night on the rickety bed.


Nurses quietly clean the hospital room, littered with roll-away equipment and empty medical packaging. A little while ago the patient stopped breathing, and it took some time to get her back. She looks so lost and broken! One of the nurses leans over and gently smooths the lines between the woman’s eyebrows. 



We walk side by side on the path between the trees. Mama’s and papa’s arms are linked with mine. The silver birches drop their leaves – yellow, orange and red gifts, they cushion out footsteps. It smells like home, like autumn, like something that passed and will never come again.

At night we sit in a small room by the fire. My toes are cold. I take one foot out of a slipper. The big toe is sticking from a hole in a sock. I hold it in my hand. Something enters my mind then, some uneasiness. It sucks away all the warmth in the room. I realize, what it is: my parents are both gone, all I have is the memory of their faces, lit up by the fire.


A white clad nurse turns to leave the room. It doesn’t look like this patient will wake up any time soon. She’s already been in a coma for more than a week.

One of the young woman’s feet is sticking out of the covers. It’s so white and fragile looking, the nurse presses it in her hand and tries to warm it up.



The feet churn the brown sludge that was once white snow. Bodies dodge each other. Among all of them I’m alone. Tiny puffs of smoke waft out of each mouth and disappear into the wet air. 

I imagine a high wire, stretching between me and where I’m going. Balancing on it, I carefully put one foot in front of another. Step, step, step.

A flash of color makes me step off to the side to stare. Dying on the ground is a small, red tulip. I can’t believe, no one else noticed or picked it up! Now it’s mine. I carry it by a broken stem, as I walk into a movie theater. Somehow, carrying this flower that no one gave me makes me feel even lonelier than before.

I watch the film. My shoulders press against the others. In the last moments the screen fills with a sea of red flowers, swaying in the field, and the story is finished. Wiping tears, I blink, as the lights go on. People file out of the doors. I sit still, peering at a miracle in my lap.

Where there once was a small bud, a glorious red blossom fills my hands! Did it bloom in the heat of the theater? Did it jump into my hands off of the movie screen? The tulip’s brilliant yellow heart smiles at me as if to say…


-“She is crying, she’s crying, come, look, she must be waking up!”

The patient’s daughter pulls the nurse by the hand into the darkened room.

The nurse peers at a figure on the bed. It’s true, there are tears running down the patient’s face. The nurse checks her pulse, while looking at the monitor.

-“I’ll call the doctor” – she says and leaves the room.




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3 Responses to “Underwater”

  1. Defenestrationism.net » Blog Archive » Underwater: SILVER BIRCHES Says:

    […] « Underwater […]

  2. Defenestrationism.net » Blog Archive » Underwater: THE TULIP Says:

    […] read it in the correct order […]

  3. Defenestrationism.net » Blog Archive » Underwater: BREATHE Says:

    […] read it in the correct order […]

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