Sunday, April 24, 2016

Sound Advice

Take it from someone who... can't do it very well.       Photo: © S. Banos

I did do it once, swim that is. Kids always ask, "You know how to swim?" And I would always reply, "Yes, of course." Like who wouldn't? And technically, I was being quite truthful- I did know... I just couldn't do it very well, if at all. I knew what I had to do, and how to do it- but like most other things physical, I was damn shitty at it. I was very familiar with the forward sweeping motion of the arms and the repeated paddling of the legs in a coordinated movement that thrusts the body aloft in a steady forward momentum; saw it countless times in books, movies, even in person even- could say I was practically expert in how it was done... but damn if I could actually do it! It took all my effort just to keep my mouth sucking in precious oxygen one quarter inch above water while the rest of my body inexplicably remained at a 45 degree angle rapidly going nowhere no matter how hard I tried. Naturally, I never wandered more than a few inches away from anywhere I couldn't readily stand up.

But there's always that one day, that one day where all the artifice must fall and your soul laid bare... And on that day I found myself with a friend and some of his acquaintances, who had since moved upstate (New York), on the way to the local watering hole. The "conversation" rapidly devolved into a mockery of how city boys couldn't swim and the inevitable, "You know how to swim, right?" "Sure do," I truthfully replied, wondering all the while how the hell I was gonna get outta this one.

And I was still pondering that very thought as we all plunged in, putting into play my vast encyclopedic knowledge of all things swimming. The group objective was to reach a water slide on the... far side of the lake, a goal well beyond ridiculous for me to even contemplate as I nevertheless huffed and puffed along as if, as if reality had no say in any of it.

My epiphany soon occurred about 1/10 of the way there when my subpar, labored thrashing about forced me to the realization that this fool's errand would guarantee I never make it to seventeen. The others had already pulled ahead by this time, and left quite alone, knew I was out of reach from being saved by any of my peers. I felt a wave of panic start to descend, and I wanted to scream in fright and anger for being so spectacularly stupid to have put myself in such a predicament. As an adult, I would have simply said, "Go off and enjoy yourself young lads while I quietly engage this good book in the company of this fine drink." As a dumb ass kid, all I could do at the moment was recall reading that after the initial panic- drowning was indeed, a rather genteel manner to die, a rather peaceful and euphoric affair towards the end.

Perhaps not wanting to die in a watery grave with virtue intact provided the necessary incentive, but right there and then I resolved to live another day, focus like I never had in my previous sixteen years, and turn the ship back to shore where I would continue to pursue the life of a happy landlubber the rest of my godforsaken years. Which is somehow exactly what I (barely) succeeded in doing.

Several hours later, everyone returned and someone asked if I was OK, "You don't look too good!" Don't quite remember what I replied, but I do remember telling myself- I don't give a bloody damn what anyone says or thinks (of me) anymore...

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