Monday April 30. 2001
an on display collab : the bottom

where no sound may be

there is a silence where hath been no sound
There is a silence where no sound
may be in the cold grave
In the cold grave, under
the deep deep sea

Thomas Hood

I have so many memories of the rituals of summer during my childhood, but one that remained, year after year, was going to the pool.

I loved the water, but my affair with swimming lessons was short lived. I lacked the stamina to swim the laps required for the higher levels such as flying fish, dolphin and porpoise, so I was stuck forever in the dregs of fish and minnow. After failing to do 8 laps of front crawl several times, I gave up.

I am also afraid of diving boards. The diving boards at the Annville pool were absolutely terrifying for me. There was a tall one, about 12 feet off of the water. I jumped off it once, on a dare from my younger sister. I remember hitting the water like it was concrete. The bored lifeguard on duty had his one moment of glory when he rescued a screaming hysterical 10 year old from the Deep End.

The Deep End also terrified me. The pool was shaped like an L. The short part of the L was used solely for the diving boards, and was about 15 feet in depth. I would be afraid to get even close to this part of pool most of time. But once in a while, I would stand at the edge of pool and peer into its murky depths as if I was staring into the gaping jaws of Hades itself. I could not see to the bottom. If I had been able to see to the bottom, I would've been okay. Even today, I feel a long dormant fear rising in me whenever I think about looking into the dark water.

Of course, the bottom of the pool at our local YMCA did not frighten me. The water was clear and I could easily see to the bottom. I liked this pool the best out of all the ones I frequented, because instead of being made of concrete, it was tiled in tan and brown. There was no lip to the pool, the water went right up the top and gently washed over the edge and into a small channel. One of my favorite things to do was to casually step off the edge and plunge into the cool water.

You remember what it's like to jump in for the first time. The tingle of your skin. Maybe it's cold enough to take the breath out of your lungs. I spent my allowance on the best goggles ten dollars could buy, and through their tinted lenses I could see everything in the pool - the grandmas and babies in the shallow end, the middle-aged men doing laps on the far side of the pool. Usually it was just me in the deep end, and that's how I liked it. I would dive down ten feet, and gently settle myself in a corner at the bottom of the pool and sit there as long as my breath would allow.

When I was down there, I would concoct elaborate situations about quietly drowning at the bottom of the pool. I would act out the entire process in my head, right down to my funeral and my mother crying over my casket. I wasn't a morbid child, but I always secretly thought that drowning like that would be like falling asleep at the bottom of the ocean, nestled among the seaweed and sand.

I wish I could've sat down there for a while - it was still and quiet and dark and no one bothered me. But the problem of the air in my lungs kept drawing me toward the surface, and eventually I would break forth into the light and the noise.

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One Year Ago:
"We picked a corner of my bedroom, and furtively held our meetings, shut out from all the younger children of the neighborhood and prying parents (which came up frequently to make sure we weren't up to anything we shouldn't have been)."