Tidal Playground

This is a longform post in response to the Discover: Memory challenge. I spent my girlhood riding in the bow of a motorboat, through labyrinths of spartina grass, pulling wet hair from my eyes, licking salt from my lips, gathering sunlight on my freckled skin. My playgrounds were the brown rivers, the salt marshes, the barrier … Continue reading Tidal Playground

Floating face down

My timing partner stood slowly, stopwatch in hand, and stared at the surface in Lane 1. Our swimmer, in Lane 4, crouched in her starting stance, ready to spring off the block, when I turned and saw the body floating in the water.

The teenage form hung limp in her dappled black speedsuit. Her back rounded into a hump that barely broke the surface, and her arms and legs dangled. Her eyes gazed at the bottom of the pool.

She looked relaxed, like she was resting in jellyfish pose while she waited for her heat to begin. I expected her to lift her head, shake the water off her cap, and say, “Okay, I’m ready,” with a big grin on her face.

Instead, her flaccid form floated there, as we all wondered, what the hell?

“She must have passed out,” I murmured, flashing back to times I’ve fainted: at the eye doctor, after blood draws, watching the nurse pull the drain from the gash in my husband’s leg; the slurping sound it made.

Timers, coaches, and neon yellow vests of meet officials crowded the corner of the pool deck adjacent to where the body floated. I recognized a meet marshal with full makeup and a helmet of highlighted hairsprayed hair. She was kind to me that morning when I told her, “I’ve never done anything like this before. I have no idea what I’m doing.” She had smiled a warm smile, cupped the side of my shoulder in her hand, and said, “It’s okay honey, we’ll have a timer’s meeting beforehand to train you. We’re just glad you’re here. Thank you for volunteering.”

Now, she was jumping into Lane 1, feet first, fully clothed. Her hair lifted as her body descended. The white rubber soles of her Converse low tops slapped the water and her arms were clamped by her sides. Another official, a young man with rectangle glasses and dark jeans, plunged in from the adjacent pool deck.

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