A Lesson in Fear
Charles McGregor is a twenty-seven year old Florida native. Currently he is teaching at the University of Texas-Pan American while finishing his MFA in Creative Writing. "A Lesson in Fear" is part of a larger work he is working on dealing with body and image issues that he has had to battle with for most of his life. His poetry can be found in modest literary magazines such as Xenith, Enhance, No Infinite, Boundless, Portland Review, and The Missing Slate. Follow him on Twitter @CMcgregor209.
The beach people adored my seven year old body.
They applauded my ribs, my sun tongued white hair.
Rich the Jet Ski Man says it's the tanning that works for him
creating the illusion that he is thinner, but my mirrors were full
of sunshine. I didn't need clouds in front of reflections
scattering the visitors bringing British accents, Brooklyn coffee.
The Gulf of Mexico requires no effort—the buoyance,
the prairie surface. I could slide across the board of water
and make golf ball biceps in my bronze arms. I was never fearful at seven.
I nearly drowned once. A golden man with big arms
gave me my first lifesaving kiss. I was never fearful at seven.
I learned how to swim with kickboards, head first diving boards.
Lack of fear is ignorance—I understood shapes and wanted to be different.
I retired from the languid rigor of the Gulf. The black leather couch,
working in cahoots with the Florida humidity, pinned me to its surface.
I loved the couch, the stationary life, the forgoing of slimy suntan lotion.
One day, I couldn't find my ribs anymore. The fear tasted as palatable
as the saline Gulf sliding through my teeth and triggering my tongue
for a choking cough. At eight I learned hide-and-seek—
the necessity of escaping the teeth of the other's gaze.