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Swim or Flight This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

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Living in a city that is boring as watching paint dry never really does help a guy like me to live like I’m dying. When I first arrived at my neighborhood, it was quiet, no busy streets or crazy drivers honking their horns at one o’clock in the morning. I really did hate those drivers. On the other hand, it was too quiet. It’s so quiet, it’s quite freaky. It’s even possible to hear even a pen drop a block away. However, I bet the whole neighborhood could hear me arguing with my parents on one winter evening.
“But Mom, seriously do I have to go to a swim meet this weekend?” I complained. Being a swimmer always has its ups and downs. There is the chance of talking and spending time with your friends, and you would always get stronger every month. But the meets would always tire me out like me surviving three rounds of boxing with Muhammad Ali. And I highly doubt that I would live after that. I didn’t really want to go to the meet, so I use the excuse everyone uses to get out of deep waters: “I promised my friends I would be at a party”. Ironically, I usually never went to parties.

“You have to go Eric,” she replied. She was the type that wouldn’t change their mind if the whole world depended on it to change. Truthfully, I really didn’t want to go to the meet because I would be swimming the 200 meter butterfly. I love swimming butterfly, but I hate swimming that stroke for long meter events. It’s okay in the beginning, you still have a lot of energy, then the fatigue comes and hits you with a 5 megaton sledgehammer. Also, I have a 400 Medley which doesn’t bode well with me either. It’s similar to a 200 meter butterfly, but now with a 10 megaton sledgehammer.

Having no way out of the argument, I go to my room to cool down. I always liked my room. It was small but not too small to create a claustrophobic feeling inside. To me, it felt kind of cozy. With some of my stuff on the floor, it was a mess. My coin collection on top of my drawer, few socks that haven’t made it to the laundry basket sitting on the floor, my homework splayed on my desk, it made it seem like it was truly my room, not some other stranger’s room. I strum my ukulele that was in its case, hearing the soft sounds of this instrument usually made my day on busy weeks.

The next day I arrived at the pool where the meet was being hosted. The smell of the chlorine took away the softness of the air, but it made my mind clear on what I would have to do. Survive and finish as the top three swimmers in my heat. Not much of a goal, but it was a good place to start. As warm ups finished, I sat in my seat and waited for the meet to start. As custom, the staff would always play the national anthem before the meet starts. I didn’t really see the reason why the audience would cheer after the anthem was played on the loudspeakers. I understood that it was a matter of that you loved your country, but I never saw my classmates cheer after they said the Pledge of Allegiance.

I was getting worked up with the upcoming events, so I tried to stay calm. But it’s kind of hard when your mind constantly screams, “You’re going to die.” So I go to my coach and ask for some advice to see how I could get through the event. “Eric, try to keep your arms moving sideways, not up. Also, keep kicking your legs like a heartbeat.” I listen like any good swimmer and nod my head to show that I understood the instructions. However, that still didn’t really help.

My event comes up. I am standing on the blocks where the swimmer jumps to the pool. As I am standing there, I see some of my friends preparing themselves for the 200 meter butterfly. But I don’t see any fear and regret on their faces, I only see the expressions of “I am going to make this.” Then the timer says, “Swimmers get ready,” and I hear a high pitched beep that signals me to go. I jump as far as I could to get further on my starts. As I swim my first 50 meters, my mind calmly says to me, “Pull, kick kick, breathe, pull, kick kick, breathe, pull, kick kick.” Almost like clockwork, I am able to pull off the first 50 butterfly. As I go to the last 50 butterfly, I feel like I just ran twenty miles. My arms are sluggish and heavy as boulders, and the water tugs on them. It feels as if I am swimming in syrup. But there is a swimmer that is neck to neck with me. It’s either second or third for me, but I chose to be second. I use the last reserves of my strength and did a final pull to the wall.

At the end of the swim meet, I felt good that I finally got the worry over with. I survived the 400 meter medley without receiving a heart attack. I learned something when I was going out the door. You never know what going to happen if you don’t try. Also, try sitting on the top bleachers. Sitting in the middle really does make your back scream.





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