Mario Villalobos

Keep Moving

Move your feet.

When I was younger, I almost drowned. I was at the river with my family. My dad brought his fishing rod and simply fished. We helped him catch some crawdads that he could use for bait. He taught us how to fish, but on this day, I really wasn’t interested in fishing. I just wanted to swim. So I did.

We weren’t alone. There were other people there, families with their kids, just trying to relax and have fun. It was a beautiful day in Southern California, but they happen so often there that I took them for granted while I lived there. This river was on the side of the road, so it crossed underneath it from one side of the road to the other. I remember looking through this tunnel and thinking how dark and scary it looked. I didn’t want to be anywhere near it.

I remember I liked catching crawdads. They were so easy to catch, and my dad taught me that they were delicious. Maybe that’s where my love for sushi comes from. I remember swimming in the river, sitting down on the shallow areas and simply enjoying the sun. The river current was soft and gentle, and I remember letting it take me away sometimes. I remember letting it take me, and I closed my eyes and enjoyed the sun on my face, the sounds of laughter coming from the kids, and the babbling sound of the river. It was all so peaceful. But then I remembered the tunnel, and when I opened my eyes, I realized the current took me very near to it. I tried to stand up but the place the river took me was deep, and I couldn’t feel the floor. I panicked.

I tried to swim away, but I was a horrible swimmer, and all I did was make things worse. The current took me deeper, and I remember lifting my head up until my face was parallel to the sky. The water was up to my neck, and I remember thinking about dying right there. The thought just crossed my mind, and I imagined my mom crying. That thought broke my heart, and I didn’t want to die, so I extended my body as far as I could until my toes barely scratched the surface beneath me. I flapped my arms against the current while tip-toeing along the surface until it rose. I ran ashore and sat down until I caught my breath.

I looked around me and saw that nobody looked at me. My father kept fishing, my brothers kept swimming, and everyone else lived their lives with no knowledge of what might’ve happened to me. I didn’t tell anyone what happened, and I haven’t spoken a word about this to anyone until just now.

I’m not sure why this memory came back to me tonight. For some reason, the three words that began this entry flashed across my mind, and I thought I was going to talk about how we must all move our feet to keep moving forward; I thought I was going to write about football, how running backs have to keep moving their feet to fight for every yard and how we all must be like running backs when it comes to accomplishing our goals; and I thought I was going to mention the flowing river and compare it to time like so many writers and poets before me have done, and how we must keep moving our feet because even though time keeps moving regardless of what we do, we can dictate where we go rather than be taken somewhere by some other force. Free will and all that.

Instead I wrote about this memory I haven’t thought about in a long time, and how much more I liked that idea than the others. We have to keep moving our feet and fight for every inch because otherwise we’ll be letting some other force live our lives for us. We have to live the life we want, and the only way to do that is by moving our feet.