We used to hang out at two different lakes in our neighborhood. One was named Lake David, “the big lake”, where all the summer activities took place and the small lake, called lake Audrey. Audrey was our favorite and closest to earshot of Mom calling our names “Leroy, Tyrone, and Veronica, get home!” or my Dads loud whistle he produced by putting his fingers in his mouth. It was loud. You heard it for blocks. The only time we could not hear anyone calling is when we would swim the gator trails we would find underwater amongst the reeds.
My brother and I became somewhat expert swimmers we spent so much time in lake Audrey. Veronica joined us sometimes but as we got older she got her own room and I and Ty would be at Lake Audrey, swimming and fishing as long as we could so we did not have to be around the house in case somebody was in a bad mood that day. It was our escape.
Holding our breath the longest led to a dangerous game that most children probably have no business doing, but I think the challenge of possible death and escape from our abuse might have been our motivation, subconsciously, to find gator trails. In the lake there are alligators and they breed. Just like deer or dog tracks, alligators have them as well. We discovered this by holding our breath and pulling ourselves along the bottom of the lake by digging our hands in the sand and pulling ourselves forward. We would swim along the reeds and notices openings once in a while. We surfaced and contemplated what it could be…gator trails? So we talked about it for some time, then we made “the dive” and followed the trail through the reeds. This seems like a story I am making up for the kids but it is the dumb things I and my brother Ty used to do. As I was swimming or pulling myself along the trail, the one time I lead usually Ty did, I noticed cloud dust just ahead of me. It took off fast. It was one of the alligators in the lake. I came up immediately and Ty swam into my legs and rose up out of the water and said “What?!” I said that fucking gator just took off, we beelined through sawgrass and got all cut up. When we sat down and realized what we just did, we also realized that the gator was running from us! We felt a bit powerful, if only for a moment. All the abuse kind of disappeared from our thoughts the rest of the day and it was different at home. They knew we just did something but they never could figure that one out!