Echo Lake

When I was eight years old, I watched a girl drown. I was at Echo Lake for the summer with my family—still intact and functional in those days. The girl’s name was Alexis Swenson. She was five. I was playing with a group of kids in the woods behind our cabins, when Alexis, ignored because she was the youngest, darted in and snatched up the lacy white sun hat that was a marker in our game and made a break for the lake.

She was laughing. Something animal in me was sparked, and I chased her. It felt so naturally like a new part of the game. When she saw me behind her she ran faster—her sun-bleached ponytail bouncing against her nape, the sun hat whipping in her small hand. She’d had a head start, and I hardly made up ground as I chased her down to and across the beach, then out to the end of the dock.

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