Hooked

My earliest memory was of being caught at the end of a fishing line. I was standing behind my brother on a fishing pier at the Virginia coast when he cast his line behind him, not realizing I was standing there. I was three years old then, and our family had begun what would become our summertime ritual of traveling east for fishing, crabbing and soaking in the beach sun. For my brother, the redhead of the family, this usually meant getting burned to a lobster red. Despite the sunscreen, hats and white, long-sleeved shirts, the ultraviolet waves reflected brightly around, infiltrating on the breeze.

***

When the hook pierced my lip, I left my body.—Or so it seemed. I saw myself from several yards back as my brother cast the line behind him and snagged me. It all looked hazy as in a dream.

The next thing I remember, I was strapped to a table as a doctor looked down at me to cut the hook free. No doubt there had been crying, but at that moment I was calm. Apparently, it’s helpful sometimes to strap a kid down for their own good. So they don’t wriggle around too much while you try to free them of fish bait. The worm was still on the hook, with the line wrapped around my head. My parents had been too afraid to touch the mess or try guessing where my bloody lip ended and the worm began.

All in all, though, it really wasn’t that bad. It initially looked worse than it really was. I kept my lip intact just fine, and now you can only see the scar if you know what you’re looking for. Even so, it just looks like a faint white bump on the top edge of my lip.

Meanwhile, no one blamed my brother. He was just a kid, too, after all, and it was an accident. For me, it would become a weirdly cool story to tell my friends later in life.

In more recent years, I’ve wondered if I actually even remembered this event on my own, or if the memory was implanted in my young, susceptible mind by the accounts of family members.

Whether being hooked that day on the fishing pier is a memory in the truest sense or not, I’ve still come to think of it as the event that brought me forth from the unconscious slumber of childhood. Like a fish, I was hooked, and pulled into this existence. Welcomed to life and all the salt tears and blood that go with it.