I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing: I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me.
I looked at the chilling, blue water of the overcrowded pool and swallowed. The thought of the challenge I had just accepted, to swim across the deep part of the pool and back, overwhelmed me.
As I jumped in, I was aware of the constant buzzing of voices, pierced by an occasional shout of the other swimmers. I kept telling myself that I wasn’t afraid, that I could do it. Besides, if I couldn’t make it Judy would see me waving my hand and come in to get me. Prompted by the false sense of security that thought gave me, I began splashing my way to the middle of the pool.
The sun was bright, almost too bright to be warm. Instead, it seemed as if that orb in the sky had turned into cold, shiny steel. A tingle ran down my back as I paddled towards the center ropes. I could do it!
I wasn’t lacking courage the way Judy and Marianne had said. Yet, in the back of my thirteen year old mind, I was plagued with fear. The fear of water which had been with me since I was three when I had almost fallen out of a speeding boat on the Mississippi. I shut out the thought as I saw the rope in front of me. Taking a deep breath, I turned around to face the side I had just come from. I couldn’t grasp the ropes to rest because the lifeguards were very strict about that sort of thing.
My stomach felt like I had swallowed part of the sun, part of that orb of steel. Shivering, not only with cold but now with fright, I began to panic. The water stung my eyes, tears came, my vision blurred. I blinked and felt myself slipping down, down, down. Touching the bottom, I gave a shove and shot to the surface. I gulped a breath of fresh air and managed to get the water out of my eyes while thrusting my hand in the air to signal Judy. As she jumped into the water I kept telling myself to hang on, keep calm and don’t panic.
Would she never come? Goose bumps were tingling all over me like tiny pin pricks. Going under again, I tried to push off the bottom. I couldn’t make it to the top, I just couldn’t. My mouth burst open and I gulped a mixture of air and chlorinated water. I was choking now, where was Judy? Drowning is painless, need air, am so tired….
I grabbed, we both went under. As we surfaced, she tried to hold me away but by that time all reason had left me. I hung on tight to what I thought was my last hope. We struggled, she flung me off. I swallowed more water which sickened my stomach. Gasping, I yelled for help, nobody heard me.
I had never felt so all alone in my life yet totally surrounded by other people.
Something grabbed me. I choked on more water before I realized that it was Marianne. She was able to keep us both up for awhile and I could breathe.
I clutched her around the neck in an effort to get further out of the water. We submerged and then we surfaced. She threw me off and again, while falling, I yelled for help.
When I landed it was on my back. Float. Simple idea, why hadn’t I thought of it before?
I was gasping and panting as my head bobbed up and down, in and out of the sickening, blue water. Float. Lift an arm, then pull it. Lift the other arm. I drew a deep breath and choked again.
Must keep calm, steady, splash, paddle, pull….almost there. I felt a hand in mine. I had made it! Judy and Marianne pulled me up onto the edge of the pool.
Even now, years later, I can never go swimming without thinking…. without reliving part of the fear of the past.
(C) Marijo Phelps all rights reserved.