Below is my contribution to the Parking Lot Confessional’s 500 club…..
She dived into the pool feeling the instant rush of heavily chlorinated water submerge her nose and mouth. She kicked towards the surface as pressure began to mount in her chest. At that moment and only in that moment she would have given anything for air. She craved the instant release of oxygen filling her lungs enabling her to breathe easy. But that moment was all too brief as her head dived down once again prioritising progress over self-preservation. To make it more challenging she imagined circumstances when this experience would be made even more torturous. A gangster demanding the freedom of her abused family providing she swam the length of a 50 metre pool in 15 seconds. If she didn’t make it? Having to watch the execution of each family member at each failed attempt, the pool slowly turning crimson at each length. Pushing this scenario out of her mind she tried to settle into a rhythm that would make the lengthy delay between each breath seem normal. She closed her mouth too late on the dive back down and swallowed water choking as her arms pulled the next stroke back to the surface. Just like the fox cub she thought, the disabled fox cub her friend had found abandoned in the countryside; only to end it’s life struggling for air under the powerful grip of a man’s hand driving it further underwater. “It’s the kindest thing to do” her friend’s father had said.
She turned her head to the side hoping her arm had cleared enough water for her to gasp. At every fourth stroke she greeted the muffled noise outside with relief before plunging facedown, her eyes seeking the thick dark blue line at the bottom of the pool; following it like scalextric. In the corner of her eye she caught sight of another swimmer in the neighbouring lane, hands cutting through the water like a catamaran. Better technique, less effort that should have been the mantra she was working to. As she twisted and turned the water felt heavy, like custard. Her eyes were begging for sight of the lane’s end. Arms outstretched fingers searching for concrete, the pressure once again mounting in her chest. Tumble turns would have to wait. The water fizzed as her neighbour’s feet slammed the side and pushed off succeeding in deepening her inferiority complex. Her smooth head emerged and a glance at the clock showed she still had a long way to go. A parting kiss to the air for her lungs before she once again returned pounding and splashing, for what? Her new found strength at this temporary respite was fuelled by an insatiable desire to keep kicking. This was in complete rejection of the only alternative – stopping, treading water for awhile and then sinking. The only light relief came when the sun lightened the blue from up above and the heat from the light’s energy was temporarily soothing. Her neighbour stormed past already 2 lengths up, the current of speed rippled through the water creating a wave that entered her mouth as she came up for air. She met the lane’s end once more and it was then that she knew the answer, and the answer was no.