Wild and Free
It was 82 degrees in Panama City this particular December day. Maya was visiting family for the holiday, her step mom's family to be exact. Even after years of visits and calling someone aunt whoever or cousin whosit, Maya never really get past the feeling of being something other than, that person always looking from the outside, in.
So while everyone was inside playing games or cooking, playing with the baby cousin who Maya hadn't even known existed until two days ago, Maya was pushing her way through past wooded boundary of the home. She knew there was a lake hidden deep behind the trees of the house. She had discovered it a few years back, when the winter was a crisp 65 Maya had needed a sweatshirt.
She pushed past the bushes and trees until finally Maya caught a glimpse of the glimmering grey water. As she had suspected, the lake was still there, though not quite as serene as that 65 degree day. The family that lived in the grey house across from Maya was undocking their boat, a young woman sat on an edge of the lake on her blue cooler, her fishing rod plopped in the lake, and there were even two kids messing around in a kayak. It was how you'd imagine a typical summer day, only in December.
Maya walked slowly towards the wooden dock. Her brown knee high boots kicked up red dirt with each drag of her foot. She paused and lifted her head. That song, she thought.
Something played softly from one of the houses by the lake. It was a familiar tune that Maya must have known; she was humming each note as it played. Suddenly the words hit her, and so did the memory of Maya's mother singing along to the stereo blaring. With a wooden spoon as her microphone, a kitchen as her stage, Maya's mother's words echoed across the wooden beamed ceilings of their house. "Don't every worry, don't ever wander, baby." She cried out, "I'm just right here baby. Stay by me."
The song was a sad one that told a story of a possessive husband who took his fears out with his fists, but in Maya's memories it lived as a happy one -- one of freedom, one of power. There was nothing more spectacular than watching her mother dance. Her hair was large and free, her eyes wild. Watching her mother in her element, with such freedom and joy, Maya could only smile. She hoped one day she might have as much wildness to let free.
Maya looked out to the lake around her. Suddenly, she was pulling off her boots, tossing them onto the wooden dock. Next came her socks and then her shirt. It might have been the music, or maybe the memory but something struck her. Maya threw her watch to the side with the rest of her belongings and dove in. The water provided a cold sting that quickly turned to comfort. Maya's heart fluttered and she took long strokes towards the middle of the lake. Maya was a strong swimmer. She could have kept a fast, steady pace and made three full laps around the lake without stopping to rest. Instead she stopped somewhere towards the middle and flipped to her back. The lake splashed against her ears and the sun beat straight down on her. Maya was not wild. She'd never thought so. But in this moment, she took a taste of what it might mean to be free.