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Published: Thu Jul 1 2004
Eva Lundsager, Were now like (detail), 2021, oil on canvas
Woman Submerged in a Car

Small bubbles headed up to television screens from a submerged car broadcast in a diffuse gold. A beautiful young woman calmly waved at a camera the rescuers had lowered into the river. I drove down to where camera lights were blinding the surface of the water and, because I cannot remember how one thought leads to the next, jumped in. I touched the passenger door that wouldn’t open, cheeks bulging, my hair frantic with effort. She tapped on the window as if I had traveled too deep into exhaustion to be there. I surfaced for air and dove back down. It was like trying to return to a dream lost in dark water. Impossible.

Though life kept us apart, I occasionally saw her from the morning bus, holding her robe together with one hand, the other hand picking up a newspaper in a strange yard. Other times, I’d see her using the reflection of the window to put on her lipstick as she passed by my apartment in the bus at night. Out of these chance encounters, we had a child. Evenings, I return home discouraged and sit with my daughter on our blue couch smelling of cigarettes and spearmint gum. We watch The Undersea World. “Mr. Cousteau, heee can find her,” she says, with her hopefully comic French accent.

After a while, I come to my senses. A car passes by outside with its front end off the ground, dutifully following a tow truck. Behind the apartment, blue lights practice Arabic on the bottom of the swimming pool. A sea tern circles and skims, searching for insects confused by the water’s surface. Like her mother, my daughter disappears. As I click through the channels, I briefly see her waving from an island in paradise with a single palm tree. Unable to find my way back to her with the remote, I call out. But my expression of love is as mute to her as if it were spoken among fish inside an aquarium.

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