I went swimming the other night, in one of those bath-water-warm hotel pools where I can stand flat in the deep end and still be barely chin-deep. Granted, I am a fine specimen, lengthy of leg and smooth as a dolphin. Others might not be so fortunate. They would submerge and sputter and get swimmer’s ear and die a painful death, overwhelmed by the bacteria of a thousand lost Band-Aids.
The child will not enter water without hot pink arm floaties, not trusting that water will hold her up. Subcutaneous fat isn’t really one of her strong features, and Mr. H did allow her to get swept out into the Hyannis boat basin that one time. So she has a fear of whales, thinking one crept up underneath her and carried her off. We allow that it certainly must have been a shameless starving whale, and in no part adult negligence. If she’s ever actually eaten by a whale, she is to tickle its throat until it sneezes, and then she will be fine. There are no whales in a pool, I remind her.
After a few turns around the perimeter, she finally realizes she can walk in the shallow end, and off come the floaties. She makes me walk around the pool with one hand under her chest as she furiously and ineffectively paddles with clenched fists. We get to the not really deep end again, and I step on the pool intake cover, which is surprisingly sharp and puts an impressive dent in my toe. Of course I think of this.
Back on go the floaties, and I decide to totally ditch her and practice the aquatic skills shamed into me from Girl Scout camp. Don’t you want to be a fucking minnow? What is wrong with you? Look, Jessica is a carp! I do the crawl, the breast stroke; I even break out the butterfly, which is met with derision. I also remember swimming caps are vaguely important in these endeavors if one wishes to see where one is going. The bottom of my swimsuit almost comes off because food is no longer of interest.
One highway exit away, someone we love is having trouble breathing. He is also tired of eating, yet still not tired of living. We have called it a night after visiting and gone swimming to wear ourselves out.
I decide I will pass the life guard swimming test and tread water for ten minutes. I could totally cheat if I wanted, owing to my superior leg length and the inferiority of the pool, but I keep at it. I am a floundering veal calf. If I were in the middle of a river or ocean, I wouldn’t have a prayer. I could flip onto my back and float, but I would forget to do this in the panic of screaming muscles and waterlogged lungs. I sink. I come back up. I’m going down for the second time.
People who are actually drowning find it physically impossible to speak. Still, we do our best until the point of no return.Â Lord willing and the water don’t rise, in two weeks I will play Scrabble with a fine man.