by Madeline Anthes
When you first fall down the well, you don’t know where you are. You forget that you fell, that your stomach flipped up into your chest. That you didn’t take a breath the whole way down. You forget that your descent ended in a splash, an explosion. When you open your eyes, it’s dark and you don’t know what happened. But then you know.
When you’re in the well, you shiver. You think of people you know who are dry in their beds, sleeping with blankets wrapped around them, and you hate them. You think of the times you were in your own bed, in front of a bonfire, or wrapped in a plush robe, and you hate yourself too.
When you’re stuck in the well, you try to climb out. You plant your fingers in between the cracks in the brick, heaving your body against the moss-soaked wall. You slip down, moss under your fingernails, muscles burning. You hit the bottom with a splash again. Your lungs feel like they’ll give out.
When you’re at the bottom of the well, you hate the night. You close your eyes and try to sleep standing up, thinking of anything but the pool of water underneath you and what might be sliding around your feet. You try not to lose hope, knowing no one will find you in the dark. In the dark, you’re the most alone.
When you’re sinking in the well, you keep looking up towards the light. You see the circle above you, only feet away but too far to reach. You know you need help, that you can’t do it alone. Your voice has gone hoarse from screaming, but you keep trying, hoping that one day someone will hear you.
When someone finds you, you celebrate with gasps of air. You take in the warmth on your eyelids. You wear thick socks so your feet are warm and dry. You reach your arms out wide because you can. But the dark still haunts you at night and you know you need to be careful. It’s tugging at you, this feeling that you could find yourself down the well once more. You didn’t mean to fall the last time, and you know it could happen again.