The sun bakes the brown skin on my back. I peer through a knot hole at the water below. The warmth feels good but I’m not here for the sun. I’m here for the water.
I place my palms down on the gnarled wooden surface of the dock and hoist myself to my feet. I quickly look around to assess the situation: Who can I impress? Who should I avoid? Who might I frighten with a sneak attack?
I face the shore and stand on the edge of the dock plank, balancing on the balls of my feet. Hands at my sides I take a deep breath and fling myself into the space beyond the dock.
The water is barely six feet deep so the dive must be shallow. Shallow dives don’t allow for much finesse but as I jump, I sweep my arms outward until they meet above my head just before I hit the water. I feel graceful and superheroic never considering that I may look less so.
The water is cool and murky green. My older siblings won’t swim here and some friends level charges of “runoff” and “swimmer’s ear” but I never believe them. This is my habitat.
With eyes wide open I immediately glide to the sandy bottom. I take massive strokes with my arms, inverting the motion I used in the air moments before. My hands pass in front of my face each time I reposition my arms for a new stroke. I feel all the power and grace my non-athletic body will ever manage. I know I am a better swimmer than my peers and that is a great comfort.
I swim silently, slightly above the sand, with no other thoughts in my head but suppressing my desire for air. Eventually that desire will overpower me but I know I’m one step ahead of my future self. When at last I can take no more, I will begin the ascent to the surface, forced to continue swimming by virtue of my position at the bottom. This, I know, will give me an advantage in future underwater swimming contests, should they ever arise.
But none of that is necessary for this dive because the shore arrives before my air supply dwindles. I take one final stroke and glide into the shallow water where it is no longer possible to hide my awkward body from the world. When I can go no further, I raise my head above the surface, taking care not to stir the water unnecessarily or to make any gasping noises with my first breath.
I linger briefly in the shallow water, feeling my body float effortlessly while my belly rubs slightly against the sand. I revel in the moment. I know I belong here. I long for the rest of my life to be this effortless.
Dedicated to Mary Lou, 2016.08.21