On Drowning

I’ll never forget the day I almost drowned…

I was working at a summer camp for autistic children. My group was in the pool splashing and playing. It was particularly hot, I could almost feel the water evaporating off my shoulders. I stood at the buoy line that divides the shallow and deep ends. Looking back I was a foolish option for this task being that I can’t swim. That said, I only had one job, stay on the shallow side of the line.

One way or another I managed to take a half step backward and immediately slid down the slope to the bottom of the pool eight feet below. I sunk like a stone and I’m at the center of the pool far from any of the edges. Almost instinctively I leap straight up with enough force that my head clears the water. Gasp and sink. I fire up again. Gasp and sink. I can’t see where I’m headed, or that I’m headed anywhere. Just gasp and sink. I do this for what feels like forever until my hand touches the slick tiled wall of the pool. I leap, grab the pool’s edge and pull myself up wheezing and coughing.

The lifeguard on duty looks at me and asks “you ok?” I replied, “No, I was drowning.”  He looks at me and says “Really? It looked like you were just playing in the pool.”

I learned two lessons from that moment. One, sometimes you have to touch the bottom to get to the top. Two, you can’t assume that everyone understands your struggle, even if they are watching it happen.

Oh, and if you can’t swim, stay the fuck away from the deep end.

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