Sink or swim

I’m in the water. I’m telling myself to stay calm. Breathe. I inhale and move my arms and legs fast. I seem to be floating. Maybe I can do this after all. I move my limbs too fast. Too fast. No, too slow. I’m drowning. I move my arms faster. I kick the water as hard as I can. It doesn’t help. I. Can’t. Stay. Afloat. The water tastes likes shit. I spit. I close my eyes. I want to rub my eyes but can’t because if I do, I will go under water, and I will never get up.

“Risto!”

My cool Dad. Inspecting something.

Somebody yells. I feel a pull in my stomach. I’m moving forward even though I’m not doing anything. What is this? What?

“Move your arms, keep your head up, breathe.”

I’m breathing. Can’t you see. That’s all I do. I’m moving my arms. I’m kicking the water. Kicking it. Kicking it with both feet. I hate it so I kick it as hard as I can. I feel another pull. I move forward again.

I can see again. I see a manlady walking next to me. Over me. To my right. It’s yelling at me. I hate its red pants and white T-shirt. Leave. Me. Alone. Monster.

It won’t. I feel the pull and I see that the pull is connected to the rude manlady’s hands with a rod. And a loop that’s around me.

“Come on! Do it!” it yells.

I grab a hold of the side of the pool. I stop. My fingers white, I hold on to the side of the pool. I see somebody’s spit floating towards me. I don’t care. I feel the pull again. I squeeze the tiles. I breathe. I’m panting. I want to go home.

“You’re done. Go back to the kiddie pool.”

The manlady wants to punish me by humiliating me. I don’t care. I get up, I run to the kiddie pool that’s behind a wall. I ease myself into the water. It’s warm. Warmer than in the other pool. I sit on the bottom. The water’s up to my neck. My hands on the bottom, I turn to my stomach so that my mouth’s under water. In my head I look like a crocodile in the Tarzan books and comics I’ve been reading lately.

# # # #

My Dad is the coolest. He runs from the sauna, first half-skipping, then in quick steps, trying to avoid the biggest stones, until he gets to the wooden jetty where he can run normally. His last three steps are cautious, but fast, as he approaches the edge and jumps into the water.

Splash.

Then nothing.

Then his head way way way way out there.

That is so cool. There’s nothing that’s cooler than that. Especially when my cool Dad does it.

Today’s the day I’ll be cool, too. I’m wearing my swimming trunks, and I run towards the edge of the jetty. I’m not as brave as my father, so I won’t jump in head first. I’ll go feet first.

Splash.

Then silence.

Forgot one thing. I can’t swim. Everything around me is brown. Or greenish. Brownish greenish. It depends a little on the sunlight. It’s more brownish towards the bottom, and greenish closer to the water’s surface.

I’m going down. Everything gets more brown. It’s really brown now. I hate brown. Wait. Now it’s a little greener. And now greener. Now almost yellowish. I feel a pull in my wrist and I see other greens and other colors. I see the greens in the trees. I see the blue sky. I feel something squeezing my wrist. It’s a hand. It’s a man’s hand. It’s my uncle’s hand.

I inhale. I spit. I breathe. I like air.

# # # #

I’m in the water. I’m telling myself to stay calm. Breathe. I inhale and move my arms and legs. I seem to be floating. Maybe I can do this after all. I move my arms faster. I kick the water as hard as I can. It doesn’t help. I. Can’t. Stay. Afloat. I put my feet to the bottom and pretend to be swimming.

I do a duck walk towards Son. He’s spitting water. It must taste like shit. I know it. I remember. He’s splashing the water. Kicking it hard. He waves his arms.

“Take it easy. Inhale,” I hear myself saying. “You’ll float. You’ll be fine. Here, take my hand, I’ll pull you.”

“Don’t let go,” says Son. “Promise!”

“I’ll never let go. Trust me. Trust yourself. Trust the water.”

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