Swimming Lessons

On Sunday I got high and went to the local swimming pool. The pool is small and heritage listed, surrounded by wooden bathing huts. There is no diving allowed and the deep end isn’t very deep. The only other people using the pool were adults taking part in a learn-to-swim class. 

I was fascinated by the class and circled my way to the shallow end to watch. From where I stood against the side of the pool, resting low in the water, it was a series of loud thrashing limbs punctuated with moments of still.

At the end of the lesson the group formed a circle with the teacher in the middle. She went around to each of them one by one and placed her hands on their shoulders. As she did they dipped low, bowing their heads underwater. I imagined them transforming into amoebas suspended in time, searching upwards for the light. They came up gasping, beached fish mouths thirsty for air. It was as though they had undergone a deep ritual, faced a primitive form of fear, and tasted oxygen for the first time.

It had been a while since I had experienced anything so visceral and I was moved in an unnamable way. The class had seemed vulnerable, and I felt huge and intrusive in their presence. I was jealous of them and wished I wasn’t stoned.

When the dunking ceremony was finished the class left, towels wrapped around their shoulders. For a while I was the only person in the water. I spread out on the surface like a four pointed star, belly arched towards the sky. At first my heels felt like stones dragging me towards the bottom, but then I found balance. When my limbs managed to navigate equilibrium I lowered my ears and listened to the underwater sounds.

I closed my eyes and remembered a sponge shaped dinosaur I had received as a Christmas present when I was a kid. Illustrated instructions on the back of the packet promised if I put the dinosaur in a glass of water it would grow to gigantic proportions and terrorize the neighbourhood. I threw the wrapping aside and ran downstairs, wetting the hem of my nighty as I dipped the dinosaur in the pool and threw it to the ground, jumping backwards. I was excited, convinced whatever was about to happen was going to be awesome. The spongy surface swelled a few centimeters, and then nothing. The dinosaur lay flaccid and lifeless by the side of the pool.

I opened my eyes and looked up at the clouds, tracing them across the sky. My fingers were starting to wrinkle. I tried to think of something else to do for the rest of the afternoon, but nothing came to mind. So I kept floating.

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