Micheal Phelps tried to race a shark after his final olympics in 2016. He lost. He even had a head start. Pathetic, a woman next to me whispers. She’s not talking about Micheal Phelps. She’s talking about her daughter who is struggling to finish her race. She flounders in the water, lagging behind the other girls. It’s like she’s not even trying.
I could never lead a lane at swim practice because I couldn’t count laps. I had many other things to think about. How I had to breathe on this stroke, blink twice for every leaf on the pool floor, apply the exact same amount of pressure to each leg pushing off the wall. I suppose my teammates were better at multitasking than I was.
Once I tried to count laps for a friend instead of myself. She was swimming a long event at a swim meet, the 800 free, which is almost half a mile of swimming. Because of this, the athletes ask friends to count their laps for them. Counting laps is pretty simple. You stand at the end of the pool and hold a long pole. At the end of the pole are large plastic cards with numbers on them. For every lap, you flip a card and when the swimmer is turning they look up and see how many more laps they have. When I was counting for my friend I got distracted by the tiles on the deck and nearly dropped the pole on her head.
I chased down a boy I liked and hit him on the arm with a branch from a rose bush. I felt guilty about this for a while. Watching his arms under water, seeing how little pink lines had bloomed. When swim practice went on too long, I would lock myself in the bathroom. Staring at beetles crawling on the locker room floor. Watching little pink lines bloom.
In May of 2015, Allison Schmitt’s cousin commits suicide.
I cut my hand open at the bottom of the pool. A bee sting in between my toes. A stabbing pain in my shoulder.
When I was little my friend had a pool party. He said he could run, run faster than any of us under the water. He cut the soles of his feet open on the bottom. Little rivers of blood pooled on his pale skin. Even now I can’t forget it. I can never let my feet touch the ground. I have to tread water for hours.
Tiles are very important. Every time I finish a set there are four tiles I have to touch. One, two three, four, one, two, three, four.