Tuesday, November 05, 2013

200 meters

image via NWI Times
Go away. Everything needs to go away. The scene in this place. The voices echoing off the tile. Especially the few that call my name. And the guy to my left, and the guy to my right. Go away. There just needs to be me and the fifty meters of chlorine filled blue water that stretch in front of me, seven feet wide, and the tone that I’m waiting for.

I just want to do ok. You know? I just want to do ok. There are people watching me. Somewhere up in the balcony they’re there. And if I’m ok, they can get me out of here.

There it is, and I’m off clean, and falling into the liquid world, and slipping under and now there’s the perfect time, the long glide and even when I start kicking I’m still in sea mammal mode and I’m way past the third of the pool mark before I need air and start the stroke. Today it just feels right, barely any break between the water below and the air above as I count myself into the first turn, dive, circle, kick and twist and I’m pulling myself back the other way and I slip into my dreamland in the softness of the blue, this easy world where the sounds are distant rumbles and the lights waver quietly and it’s just me and what my body can do.

When I start to come out of that state I’ve gone three laps and made the last turn and I’m starting to dig through the last forty meters. Now that bigger world starts to intrude. Now with every stroke I think of where the other swimmers might be. I think of places I’ve never seen or really imagined: East Lansing and Raleigh and San Antonio. I think of being in a place where no one knows me. Where no one knows all the ways I screw up. Where I can start all over, as clean as when I climb out of this pool.

And with all that I feel the water get thicker, but I feel myself start to rise up and fight. My arms drag massive chunks of water and force me forward. I start to know that there are no wakes kicking back toward me from the lanes on either side. I think I hear a voice yelling to me, saying “come on, you’ve got it.”

The end of lane marks are there, and I reach and touch. Then let myself sink, deep into the silence and safety until burning lungs force me to the surface. Cam grabs my hand and holds it up. The guy from Hempstead ducks under the markers and grabs me and says, “fuckin’ a.” I mumble thanks and dunk myself again, all the hours I’ve spent hiding from my life in water like this, all the times I’ve wondered about disappearing into it, about just not coming back up for oxygen, and maybe now it all can carry me away.

I come back up. The clock shows the best time I’ve ever swum. I climb out, wrap myself in the towel Cam hands me, and drift off into a corner, dropping onto a chair. They’ll come find me in a few minutes. They all will. And that’ll be ok. Because now I know where the door is.

(c) copyright 2003, 2013 by Ira David Socol

Thursday, October 17, 2013


Floating in and out of the present. Something in the back of my head really hurts but the pain in my right leg, that's the thing. That light is way, way too bright. I can only see the vague silhouetted shapes of the people talking above me. I feel the shot flowing into my vein and maybe I'm on the concrete deck alongside the outdoor pool trying to look into a sizzling early September sun. Is that Joey? Are we going to do the 4x100? I feel the breeze cross my body and shiver as I try to get up. But I'm way too tired. "Later," I mumble, "I just can't swim right now."

"Do you need something?" A nurse is asking. What is a nurse doing… oh. I hear someone say something about the mix of concussion and morphine. Someone touches my forehead, softly. Now I know I'm naked. Who are these people? I see a cascade of long dark hair and try to reach for her but cannot move that way either.

I dove for him. In a flash, does cognizance come from that sudden pain that sweeps up from my leg? I remember this. On that fire escape on 227th Street. He'd cut Brian with that fucking knife that came out of nowhere and went out the window before anyone could react. I went after him and tried to grab him… Where is Brian? That was one huge slash, but I can only remember falling, there's nothing in between then and this blindingly white space.

Warmth floods my brain suddenly and now I am maybe fifteen and drying naked on the warm granite rocks of an abandoned island after swimming from the park, slipping out of realities then as well, and there are noises around me, boat motors, jets leaving LaGuardia, even a siren but they are far away and can't disturb my escape.

"We've got to start getting into that leg now," a voice says but I cannot grasp where it might be coming from. I feel hands on me, and still wonder where they could be coming from. Then, snap and the meds drop away and in that window I'm with Colin and Mike and Brian in that room on the EDP - Emotionally-Disturbed Person - call, and I do fall, tumbling past the fire escape ladder. It's slow motion in this vision and I feel but don't see myself land on the edge of that dumpster and then the crushing thud onto the alley pavement.

Quiet time in the dark and then the sounds of people running towards me, and the radio barking "two officers down," and then, is there another injection? I think I hear, "calm him down, he's waking up," and the window shuts and maybe I'm on the concrete deck alongside the outdoor pool trying to look into a sizzling early September sun. Is that Joey? Are we going to do the 4x100?

(c) 2005 - 2013 Ira David Socol