My efforts with Total Immersion swimming are slowly paying off. The number of strokes it takes to go 50 yards is down by half, and I can actually feel the thrust, with little effort, when I get the mechanics correctly. People are still a little curious why I’m doing this now, at my age, and how it is I never learned to swim properly before if I had the interest. So a little background.
The Jungle That Is Our Youth
There were a few boys my age that were physical specimens starting in sixth grade. Their testosterone came early, or there was something in the water on their street, that gave them manly features while I still sported a pudgy belly and a double-chin. I ate a lot, and a lot of ice cream to boot, so I understood why I was the way I was. But two boys in particular, Terry B. and Danny V., had muscle definition and a chiseled physique. They were ripped. And it wasn’t just being skinny, but there was muscle development.
One day in sixth grade, there was rain and so our recess was held downstairs, in the basement, and it was a crowded, raucous affair. At some point, Terry B. got a hold of an empty masking tape roll (i.e., just the cardboard ring) and slid that up his arm until it was snug on his bicep. He then flexed his muscle until that cardboard ring tore open. I was astounded. To this day I’m astounded.
Swimming with Sharks
The city pool was in the park directly behind our house, less than two hundred paces from our fence. We heard the shouts and screams of kids splashing in the water every day in summer. My mother was nervous about us venturing there, but we did go, and without ever taking a lesson, I could navigate the water fairly well. I stayed in the shallow end, but I could swim underwater, and was very comfortable, and splashed and played with the roughest of them.
There was a boy a year older than me, Jeff W., who had the same chiseled physique as the two my own age. He was something of a prick, and had a reputation for being tough, and so I generally avoided him. I was there, in the shallow end, with him one day in summer.
I was swimming under water, and apparently kicked him as I passed. When I came up for air, he jammed my head back under, and I took in a great gulp of water into my lungs. I still recall the feeling of panic vividly, and how I gripped at the edge desperately as I coughed it out.
I coughed and coughed until I spit blood. He was a little concerned, but mostly about what might happen to him. The life guard had him sit out of the pool until after the next Adult Swim. I made my way back home, shaken and unnerved.
The Best Revenge is Living Well
I did not return to that pool for five years, until I had learned to swim with my head above water. I don’t like any kind of horseplay in the water, and I panic quickly as I lose air, or if water goes up my nose or in my mouth. I’m kind of a wreck.
But I am now, finally, gaining a bit more ease in the water. Breathing is my biggest problem.
You’d think I could have overcome all of this earlier, and without so much internal drama, but that is a kind of metaphor for my entire life. I’m trying to be a late bloomer, before it’s all too late.
Oh, and that Jeff W. guy? Well, if he tries to befriend me on Facebook, I’m going to ignore it. So there.