I last heard the phrase “the deep end” when my dad told me about finding his friend’s daughter motionless at the bottom of a pool. It was a summer afternoon a dozen years ago, and the adults had relaxed their child-watching attention. In the five-minutes-or-fewer that it takes most children to get into trouble, the two-year-old had stumbled into the pool and, unable to swim, sank into the deep end.
The phrase “go off the deep end” doesn’t usually mean sinking. Today we use it to mean going insane. If you think about it literally, it means jumping in and floating where your feet can no longer touch the bottom. It means disconnecting from a foundation or a frame of reference. It means losing your stability, your self-control.
The word “deep” comes from the Old English deop, meaning “profound,” “awful,” or “solemn,” according to the Online Etymology Dictionary. Deop goes back to the Proto-Indo-European root *dheub, the meaning of which grew from “bottom” to “foundation” to “earth” to “world.”
This issue’s stories emerged from our writers following their curiosities and concerns about everyday relationships with people, like Sara’s New Age aunt or a Basque man Ethan spilled beer on. From these foundations, we hope these stories will create a more informed, maybe even caring, world.
This issue tells of people thrown into the depths of economies, governments, families, and cultures. These people and their circumstances often go unnoticed and unchallenged. In the United States, some people must go to extreme lengths to bring money home to their families, as Ethan Cutler shows us with a story about migrant sheepherders in Colorado, and as Andrew Braverman does with a report on America’s plasma market. Meanwhile, Emma Gonzalez reconciles her dreams of sustainable agriculture with the reality of its motivations in Cuba. Kat Snoddy remembers using dark humor to cope with a family member’s suicide. Montana Bass mixes a personal experience of sexual assault with an analysis of the culture that perpetuates it.
When we dredge the depths, we find the heaviest stories, the ones that too often go unnoticed. But no matter how dark things may seem, sometimes they end well. At the end of the issue we leave you with Sara Fleming’s hilarious and hopeful (at least relatively) reflections on the Enneagram personality system.
That two-year-old I started telling you about didn’t end up drowning. My dad pulled her out of the deep end, and she survived. These stories are here in your hands because people took the time to look beneath the surface. I hope you will feel inspired to do the same.
Jackson Truesdale and the Cipher staff