Down the hill, past the cornfields, just north of Brattleboro and west of New Hampshire is a bend in the river that they call Deoâ€™s Hole. Itâ€™s a deep place that comes just after some tame rapids, a perfect swimming hole that just happens to have a rocky outcropping above it from which children have been known to jump.
I died there when I was six. I jumped off of the rocks when my momâ€™s back was turned, diving like the Olympians I saw on the wave. I wanted to be a diving champ someday, and I didnâ€™t understand why Mom would let me dive into the public pool but not into the clear, cool river water.
I hear they didnâ€™t find my body for a few hours. It had been swept downstream, and by all accounts, my mom was pretty frantic. When they pulled me out I was blue and bloated and had a gash in the back of my headâ€”I still have the scar from that. Itâ€™s why I keep my hair long. Anyway, they got me to the hospital pretty quick and hooked me up to the stabilizers. The guru said my soul wasnâ€™t too far from the body, which I gather is usually the case with kids. Itâ€™s not like the old folks, where the nurses have to fight them every step of the way to get them back in their skin. Never understood that, personally. No matter how old you are, isnâ€™t it best to go on living? Our quotas are short enough as it is nowadays.
Iâ€™m getting sidetracked. The point of all this is that years later, when I was about fourteen, I looked up Deoâ€™s Hole and found out it was named after a kid. Thatâ€™s right, a kid named Deo, who jumped off that rock the same way I did and died there, decades ago, long before my mother or my grandmother were even born.
I was incensed. I remember storming home to my mother with the printout from the library in hand, demanding to know why they hadnâ€™t renamed the swimming hole after me, why people werenâ€™t remembering my name instead of some dumb kid from ancient times who probably didnâ€™t even care about swimming or diving or the Olympics. She took me aside and told me that Deoâ€™s Hole was like the hospital or the park; they both had â€œmemorialâ€ in their names to remind us of people who had died for good. Nobody needed to be reminded of me, she said, because the doctors had fixed me, put me back so that I could live the rest of my allotted years.
At fourteen, I had never before been exposed to the idea that people, young people, could die and not be fixed. The idea of losing so many years of life was shocking to a kid my age, and I had to go see a shrink for a few months to get all that sorted out in my head. Now every time I drive by Deoâ€™s Hole, I take a moment to remember a kid I never knew from a past so barbaric that it never let him grow up. But as the car zips along, tires spinning like four prayer wheels, I think of all the years his name has been spoken, far more than our life quotas nowadays, and I wonder if Deo didnâ€™t get the better end of the deal.