I had my first swim class last Saturday. It was actually the second class, but I’d missed the first one because someone turned off my alarm clock. And because I like to drink. And sometimes I don’t like to stop. And then it’s 5:00 a.m. and the sun is rising and my boyfriend Jose Cuervo and I are still, um, up talking. And when swim class starts at 10:30, well, let’s just say that’s hard. Because the clock goes off at 8:00 a.m. to give enough time to shower and regroup from the night/morning before, but I don’t hear it and Daddy asks why it’s been set and I say– wait, I sorta slur, “I’m going to swim” and he says “Let’s turn this off because that’s not gonna happen.” And then I roll my eyes because I could so make it happen if he would stop sitting on my head. Is he sitting on my head? He must be. Something or someone is definitely sitting on top of my head. When I wake up again, at 11:42 and shoot straight up screaming Shit!, I’m angry not at Jose or me, but at Daddy for giving me a ‘You don’t seriously think you could have gotten into a pool this morning; I bet you can’t even stand without swooning’ look. He’s so supportive that way. And for the record, I could not stand, let alone not swoon.
So, on the second swim class that is my first class, I show up 20 minutes early because I am psyched. I have been waiting all week for this. Let’s go! I reach for the door and — I don’t move. I sit in the car for the next 13 minutes talking myself into going inside because I haven’t eaten, I have butterflies, I don’t like to put my face in the water in the shower.
I push past this nonsensical mind drivel. There are a few nervously smiling women in the locker room. You have nerves of steel, I tell myself. There are children everywhere; adults are at one end of the pool, children at the other, some in the water with their parents if they’re under one or two years old. I hype myself up in the mirror, speaking out loud since it’s just me in the bathroom now. You rock, I say. You can do this, I say. You are better than these little baby ass babies who have to come with their mommies to learn to swim. And then I see the shower curtain open behind me revealing a mom. And her baby.
In the pool I am glad the instructor is familiar; she taught at the pool where the girls took lessons. She says she is subbing for the regular teacher. Great. I would have known she wasn’t the teacher if I had been there last week. Daddy. Anyway, she asks what was worked on the previous week. Two of us (in a class of seven) weren’t there for the first class. They’d practiced holding their breath, bobs (full submerge), back strokes, front strokes/glides, and kicks. She said, “Wow, you covered a lot.” I just stared.
The first thing we were to practice was bobs, going under. Damn, just like that? Aren’t you even going to ask how my morning is going? My name? My sign? Just bam! go under the water? I considered simply leaving. The woman beside me, who also hadn’t been there the first week, sensed my frustration – wait, fear. I was eyeing the exit hard. She said she wanted to encourage me, that this was her second time taking the beginner level so she was a little more confident, just not ready to go to level two. I told her I could see myself swimming but wasn’t sure how to actually manifest it. She said we’ll say one, two, three, and just do it. Oooh, science. OK.
One, two, three…I went under.
I did not glide. I did not stroke on mah back or mah front. I did not kick. But, I went under repeatedly. Straight down, and back up. Straight down, and back up. Oh, I attempted everything. But, I need more time. If you don’t have this particular fear, perhaps you don’t understand why this is so difficult. But, it was my first day, in water up to my chin, and I felt like I was in a liquid vise. I felt trapped and kept flashing back to Wild World, 1983, when I got caught in the wild wave and the lifeguard grabbed me in the middle of the stupidly large to a 10-year-old expanse of water where I was crying and screaming and Aunt Lucy looked down at me, threw a towel on my head, and said, “Learn to swim, dummy.”
I left the class proud of being able to submerge my head. I didn’t even think about all the stuff I wasn’t able to do because I was finally able to tackle what I thought was my biggest hurdle. Now I have to work on staying under longer. Sure, I may need to repeat this beginner level class, but the fear is slowly falling away. And I am going to learn to swim.