I know he meant to do it, just like I know my mom meant to send me to my watery grave. Mom would never know the deaths I endured by making me take swimming lessons, because she was never poolside during my two weeks of humiliations, flailings and desperations
I pedaled alone to the municipal pool, bustling with half-naked boys and girls, dank and drippy surfaces, and cutting chlorine smells. After chaining my banana seat bike to the public bicycle rack I stood on the left side of the front entrance commonly known as the woman’s side, even though I was only an eight-year-old girl in shorts, a striped tank top, and flip-flops. I was flocked with the only piece of comfort mom gave me which was the blue terry bath towel snug around my neck. After the teenagers at the front desk thought enough of us dumb kids were ready to meet our doom, they let us file in singly through the swampy floor while one of them clicked a silver counter each time one of us passed from the light and into the dark hall.
Inside the women’s locker room, I could hear the echos of the boys on the other side screaming and hollering like this was going to be some fun. I took my clothes off over my swimsuit and folded them neatly on the one-foot stilted bench, hoping no one would knock them into the puddled water on the gray cracking floor. I walked past a row of curtain-covered toilets to the edge of the moist room and pulled a chain that released a squelch of prickly cold water on top of my blonde head, now brown.
Out in the sun, I shivered as I stood at the big pool with my cold feet at the edge. I was sure this was an unnecessary evil, of which I wasn’t sure I could endure. The tall tan girl said some things I couldn’t quite hear then blasted her whistle which was tied around her neck with a red cord. We all jumped in, feet first. I could keep my head above water and was glad for this, but the whistle-tooting girl insisted I put my head under the water! We were to bob ten times, down and up, down and up. Boys were shooting like missiles, breaking the water line with volcanoes of splashes. Even girls were splashing their happy arms in a chorus of up and down. I gasped (for air).
Sure, I’d learn to swim–soon enough, but for now it was the out-of-the-water part that was my favorite. Swimming lessons were almost over, and I was feeling optimistic about living to see tomorrow. My sights were set on drying out my shriveled toes and hiding under my sun-drenched towel from home. As I was locking my elbows straight to raise myself out of this mess, some stupid boy pulled down on my swim bottoms and saw my lily-white bum. I shot downward as quick as a wink to pull my bottoms up. Beneath the water I stayed, out of fear and total embarrassment. I hated that boy as much as swimming. Seems everyone was out to get me.