It is a warm spring day, and the sun speckles the earth through the bright green leaves above. That is the same.
That, and the fear.
My young, non-binary child and I were only walking that day, five years ago. I had been looking over my shoulder at something—what?—when they had torn themselves from my grasp and run out into the road. A split second later, a wet violent sound shuddered through my body. The car had sped off, leaving my beloved, beautiful child beside the turtle they had run out into the road to save.
I do not hear cars today, but instead the river. I stand until my body hums with energy, and then I pace the bank like a caged tiger.
“Got her!” the rescue woman shouts as she surfaces with my daughter, and already I am kneeling on the bank, peering at my daughter’s unconscious form, looking for signs of life. My vision winks in and out like the reflection of the sun on the water’s surface. I see my first child, lying ruined on the road. I see my second, unconscious in the arms of the woman. I go back and forward in time until I hardly know who I am, only, that I can’t handle this pain.
Only minutes had passed, I would realize later. Minutes, from when I called for help to when my daughter was pulled from the river. Minutes, while they began CPR and she began coughing up water. Minutes that I watched my first child die all over again, in between the shining sun and the rushing river and a vibrant spring day humming with life.
My daughter is coughing. I surge forward, pulling her to my chest, and the rescuers get out of my way. Through my tears, the whole world looks like the blur of the river.
Not her too, I think with relief as she wraps her arms around me, still gasping. Not today.
I press her wet hair to my cheek and scrunch my eyes tight, but even as I murmur my bone-deep thanks, I feel that small hand tear from mine all over again, hear the strike and the car racing away, and see the body of a child who’d had more life in them than me, left behind to the past.