I recently found myself lying on the wooden deck that surrounds my cousin’s pool, just basking in the beautiful sunlight, and loving everything about the world. Pat and Andrew are taking turns trying to drown each other in the pool next to me, while I stare into the sky and try to convince myself that the group of clouds above me resembles two frogs doing Kung Fu. As the frog clouds slowly morph into less definable shapes, I close my eyes and go back to waiting for the sun to make me tan. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, I am unable to lie and simply stare at the insides of my eyelids for very long before my mind begins to wander.
I think about how happy I am, how good the sun feels, how badly I’m going to regret not using suntan lotion, how it doesn’t really matter if I use suntan lotion since skin cancer usually doesn’t develop until way later on in life, how much it would suck if I ended up dying of skin cancer before my SMA killed me, how I will definitely remember to use suntan lotion next time, how perfect the day is, how soon the pizza will arrive, how awkward my arms look sprawled out like tiny pterodactyl wings, how refreshing the water is about to feel, how I haven’t written a story for the blog in a long time, how I really need to find some inspiration for a story, how my followers are going to hate me if I don’t, how I’m probably overreacting, how I’m going to lose my shit if that yellow jacket lands on my body, how I could maybe try to write about swimming and all of the ways it has affected my life, how that actually might be a good idea!
I lie contently in the sunshine and think about how I could start the post with one of my earliest recollections of swimming. I’ve never been able to swim on my own, but I fell in love with swimming before I can even remember. My grandfather had a very large in ground pool that my family spent many of our summer days in or around. My dad used to hold me in the water, upright, so I had control over my neck as well as my arms and legs. As a little kid I loved being in this position in the water because it allowed my arms and legs significantly more freedom to move than I had in my chair. Around six or seven years old I discovered the magic of being underwater, and my time in the pool with my dad became a constant pattern of him submerging me underwater, walking around to make me feel like I was “swimming,” and bringing me up after some time to make sure I was still alive. I don’t know what it is, but to this day being underwater still feels like something my body should not be capable of, which is why doing it is so damn fun. I used to pride myself on the fact that I could stay underwater for over 40 seconds, one of the very few physical feats that even my brother could not accomplish.
I laugh to myself as I begin to think about how my parents signed me up for a pool class for children with disabilities when I was very young. It was around the same time when I was beginning to prefer being underwater more than above. My young, stupid mind assumed that this pool class would be a place to improve my underwater swimming skills even more. Imagine my surprise when the first activity we did involved singing “The Itsy-Bitsy Spider” while our parents trickled water on our heads with a sponge. You’ve got to be fucking kidding me, right? Most of the kids in the pool were teenagers, and it shocked me when a few of them started crying/spasming/screaming as the water touched their heads. I spent the remainder of the song eyeing up the other parents, trying to assess which ones would be able to move their kids the fastest in the underwater races that I assumed were coming up soon. My dad must’ve realized how annoyed I was, because he quietly excused us from the sponge-water baptism torture circle and helped me swim around underwater on the other side of the pool. The races with the other kids never came, so my dad and I never came back for the second session.
Pat gets out of the pool because he’s apparently bleeding out after Andrew cut him during their fight. Andrew is the only one in the pool and I begin to think about how he kind of almost drowned for real when we were little and how scary that was. Our family was staying at a random hotel in a random city. I can’t remember why, probably some type of MDA function. The hotel had a large indoor pool, so naturally we begged our parents to take us down the minute we got there. The poolroom was eerily uncrowded; only one other person occupied the huge space, and he was reading a book at a table in the corner. I was delighted because at this point in my life it was still embarrassing to be carried around the pool in front of large numbers of people, but one old guy reading didn’t bother me.
Andrew asked if he could jump in, and my dad said sure as long as he stayed in the shallow end, since seven-year-old Andrew didn’t really know how to swim yet. I watched in increasing horror as Andrew cannonballed into the shallow end, and proceeded to not return to the surface. Luckily, it didn’t take my dad long to realize that his son was dying. I’ve never seen my dad move as fast as he did in that moment, jumping into the water to pull Andrew to the surface. The old guy in the corner stared with his mouth literally hanging open, which we joke about in retrospect. After Andrew stopped coughing and crying, my dad made him realize that all he had to do was stand up and his head would have been a foot above the water. I don’t know if it was the terror or the embarrassment, but Andrew decided he didn’t like swimming for a few weeks after that.
I think about another time when I decided I did not like swimming either. My family and I were at a lake for the birthday party of my childhood best friend, Ben. Dad was holding me in the water, dunking me and “swimming” me around the confines of the swimming net, which marks the safe area to swim. While I was hovering a few feet under the water, I noticed a long black object move past my face. I frantically gave my dad the signal to bring me up—a tap on his wrist—and as soon as I reached the surface I babbled something along the lines of, “dad ohmygod there’s a snake in here get me out get me out now hurry it swam right in front of me hurry!”
“It was probably just seaweed or a tree branch, don’t worry,” he said, severely underestimating the intensity of the situation. But he nonchalantly made his way to the beach, while I floated through the water with my muscles contracted as tight as I could squeeze them, which was my pathetic attempt to guard myself from the snake.
When we got out, everyone made fun of how afraid I was of the imaginary snake. I hated them, and I wished they would go into the water and get bitten by it and drown. A few minutes later, a massive group of people came sprinting out of the water and ran to the lifeguard stand. The lifeguard grabbed a net on a long pole and dashed into the water. Several minutes later he walked back onto the beach with a long black snake in his net. I felt vindicated and oddly triumphant, and I let everyone know it… several times. To this day I don’t swim in lakes. I will gladly put a snake around my neck at the pet store, but wild water snakes are scary as shit.
As my cousin Becca brings her iPod speaker out onto the deck and turns on Circa Survive, I think about how I was in almost this exact position when I discovered Circa Survive. Becca and I were in eighth or ninth grade. (note: this is not the same cousin Becca that I went to high school with. I have two cousins named Becca on separates sides of the family. We are all the same age. I know it’s confusing, but you will make it!) We were laying on beach towels next to the same grandfather’s pool that we grew up in. It was near the end of August, around the time of year when you start to feel autumn approaching in the distance. Becca pulled one of her earbuds out and put it in my ear. “Listen to this guy’s voice,” she said. Although I didn’t know its name at the time, she put on the song Living Together. A surreal feeling washed over my body, and suddenly, despite the August sun, I was covered in goosebumps. Something about the song triggered a change in my body. Up until this point in my life, my favorite bands consisted of Puddle of Mudd, Linkin Park, Nickleback, and Eminem, because music never really meant anything to me other than something to listen to because popular people listened to it. I wasn’t even aware that there were bands out there that weren’t on the radio. Immediately, everything I thought I liked about music completely changed, and I was more than the excited about it. That moment also catalyzed the beginning of a closer relationship between Becca and I. She and I didn’t used to hang out very often, because we went to different schools, but on that day we discovered a common passion: the atmospheric, heavenly, emotional, and inspiring sound of Circa Survive.
Andrew splashing cold water on my frying skin abruptly jerks me out of my daydream, and I decide it’s time to get back into the pool. It feels great to finally have found inspiration for a new story, but the water feels even better. Andrew submerges me under the surface. I look around as the chlorine burns my eyes and smile. I don’t know if I’ve ever been as happy about my life as I am in this exact moment.