I’ve never been one for water.
First of all, I’m always convinced that either this:
is going on underneath me, no matter what depth or type of water I’m in.
Second of all, because I’ve never been one for water, I’ve never learned how to swim.
And also, these stories, which are both the reason I’ve never learned to swim and the reason I’m not one for water:
STORY THE FIRST
I am a very young child – I think around grade one, so six or seven years old – and I am on a play date with my friend Amy. Her mom has brought us to a local swimming pool. I’m leery of the water, but I don’t mind the shallow end, so I stand around, which is how I “swim.” Then my friend Amy decides that we should go down the water slide into the shallow end. I am hesitant. I say I don’t want to, but Amy is insistent. Her mother encourages us, promising me that if I go down the slide, she’ll catch me at the bottom and I won’t go into the water.
So I climb the two or three steps up the tiny slide. And then the rest happens in slow motion. I start my descent – there is no turning back, because momentum’s got the best of me – and I simultaneously see Amy’s mom turn her head (and her attention) away from me. Before I understand what is happening, I am under the water. All I can see is legs. Women’s legs standing in the pool and I am in a sort of all-fours position, ready to brace myself as I sink to the bottom of the pool. I remember the feeling of my knees hitting the floor, but I couldn’t get myself back up. All I could do was stare at the legs.
I don’t remember anything after that. I don’t know if I blacked out or just blocked it out. All I know is that that broken promise was traumatizing.
STORY THE SECOND
So I didn’t go into a swimming pool for a long time. Until grade four, when we had a school trip to a different pool, this one outdoors. Once again, I refused to do anything but stand in the shallow end, but my friends kept egging me on. Come on, Andrea, we’ll teach you how to swim – it’s easy! Come on. Come on, come on, come on! We’ll hold onto you!
They promised that they would hold onto me for the entire time we were in the deep end.
I should have known better because we were all like, 10, but I trusted my stupid friends.
As soon as we got into the deep end, they let go, and I went under.
Again, I don’t remember the entire moment. I remember panicking, waving my arms underwater, inhaling a TON of water and feeling the chlorine burn and choke me. I remember the water went dark. Eventually somebody must have helped me up, because then I remember holding onto the concrete edge of the pool so hard that my fingertips went white and my arms were scraped. I was coughing and choking, and I could feel a lot of heavy water in my lungs. My teacher was crouched on the pool edge in front of me, asking if I wanted her to call my mom. I was coughing and crying and nodding, and I told her my phone number and begged her to call my mom. She returned a few moments later…
SIDENOTE: She didn’t get me out of the water(!!!)
…and said that I must have told her my phone number incorrectly because the call couldn’t be connected. I told her again and again. It was like one of those nightmares where one crucial detail keeps being misunderstood and you’re trapped in a vicious, inescapable cycle and you feel like you’re losing your mind. I kept repeating the number, and three or four times my teacher returned saying the call couldn’t be connected. I cried and repeated the number, gripping onto the edge of the pool and coughing and wishing I were home already and just WANTING MY FUCKING MOM.
Ever since then, the thought of even being in the shallow end of a pool makes my heart rate skyrocket. Sometimes I can barely even stand to have water on my face. I panic in the shower when I’m washing my face if I feel like I’m not getting enough air. Hell, I even had to stop playing any levels of Tomb Raider for Playstation that had swimming sections when I was a pre-teen because I would freak out and feel like I was drowning.
I love the ocean, but I wouldn’t go in. I’ll get my feet wet. No further.
Lesson learned: Swimming’s not my thing. What’s not yours?
P.S. Even though Jaws and Creature from the Black Lagoon totally freak me out, they’re two of my favourite films. But I’ve always dug scary movies, from the time I was like, five and I watched Harry and the Hendersons on a loop and then had nightmares about it. There’s still one scene that makes me feel weird: that one moment where we see a super close up of Harry’s face through the binoculars? Scares the shit out of me.*
*This may be why I’m totally scared of monkeys/apes/primates. Hmm. Future blog post? Maybe!