It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.
― Charles Dickens, Great Expectations
“Are you sure you know how to swim?” “Maybe. Isn’t that why you’re here, mister?” The kid’s too cheeky to be angry at and I see Pete, the lifeguard giving in, apparently at a loss for words. “Fine, please be careful. I’ll keep an eye on you till your parents come.”
I try to think of objects or thoughts that can be described by ‘stunning clarity’ but nothing comes to mind, save for the glistening turquoise mass in the pool. I stand at the edge of the pool, frozen by my fear of water and let out loud, short breaths as I begin to drown among the multitude of people. So many people and so many stories.
I sigh as I think about how many stories go unwritten while others are abandoned halfway.
As the day begins to shimmer in a new day’s glow, I recall the summers and how every one of us would rush to the pool and go out for ice cream later before returning home, too happy to be sad. I call out to Pete but he ignores me like he’s been doing for the past year. He doesn’t talk much anyway, not after what happened. But then again, a scared 12-year-old is sadly too easy to miss, especially when there’s so much noise to navigate around.
I sit down at the edge of the pool and watch the gleeful kids around me, wishing I could talk to them. I look at their faces and the wide smiles on their parents’ faces – a painful reminder of what happened but also a reminder of how contagious joy is. It can cover up just about anything.
My brother sits next to me on the floor at the edge of the pool, even though there’s a chair nearby. He’s reading a book but I notice he’s on the same page several minutes later. It’s wet, from pool water or tears, I’ll never know. The edge is our favourite place to sit. Being afraid of water, this is just about as far as I go. Rick can swim but he hasn’t stepped foot in water since the last year.
He looks up at the pool every now and then. I think he’s thinking what I’m thinking – that the water traps moments. If you look closely, you can see your memories playing out like a dream in a movie. I don’t think I’ve seen him smile in the past year, people say it’s the adolescent phase but I don’t think I’d smile either, not after what happened.
The stench of chlorine and the sight of the bleached white tiles at the bottom of the pool bring back those memories of venturing into the pool. Some say fear is to be overcome but not a day goes by that I wish I’d stayed the scared boy when we decided to play pretend that day last year.
Maybe if I had been afraid, I would have still been writing my story today.
And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.
― F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
The above was written in response to Summer of Stories’ third prompt – ‘In 500 words or less, write a story about a day at the pool.‘ This story didn’t turn exactly the way I meant it to and while it’s a tad too ominous for the prompt, I still enjoyed writing it! Let me know what you think!
here are the rest of my entries for the summer of stories contest if you’d like to check it out!