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A Single Lap

I peddled my bike faster, hoping to coax an extra bit of speed out of my wheels, figuring I could make it through the crosswalk before the light turned. I made it, barely. Maybe, with the extra time gained by beating the light, I would be able to get to swim practice a few minutes early and talk with some of the other swimmers. I had been practicing with them for three weeks, but still hadn’t gained any friendships outside of practice. This wasn’t the first time that my parents have taken me abroad for a semester. In the past, however, I had been enrolled in a school. This time, my only contact with other kids was at swimming practice.
This is the fourth semester my parents have taken me out of school to travel. I have been to many faraway places: Greece, England, Spain, even Turkey. Yet, I do not feel at home anywhere. Home is where the heart is, and my heart is most certainly not here in the South.
I turn into the parking lot of the pool, and lock my bike up in the bike stand next to the entrance. As I go inside, I am struck by how tranquil it is; the clouds are turning pink with the impending sunset, and a soft breeze wafts over the water. The water itself is glass smooth, inviting me to dive in, and send waves across the pool. The only people in the compound besides me are the two lifeguards, talking in the corner.
I thought back to my first practice at this pool. I was excited to make new friends, but was rather nervous. I had only been swimming for a year, so even though I was built like a swimmer, tall with broad shoulders, and large hands and feet, I still felt awkward coming out on deck in my team suit. I envied the more senior swimmers, and their seemingly flawless confidence in themselves.
As I sit on the bench by our practice lane, I wait for my group to filter in. As they arrive, I am again amazed by the fact that they all have iPod headphones in, or are talking on their cell phones. They make their way over to my side of the pool, and sit down on the benches near me. The most interaction I get from any of them is a nod.
The coach comes over, and announces the beginning of practice. All of my fellows put their phones and iPods away, and go to him. With a clap of his hands, he tells us that our warm up is 400 yards. As we all jump in the water, I cannot help but notice that any semblance of tranquility is gone. Waves kicked up by us lap over the edge of the pool, and the sun is sinking lower. Noticing that one of the other swimmers has glaringly white legs, I look forward to the end of the set to mention it. After I touch the wall, I try to rib him about his new suit, but get chewed out by the coach for talking. Clearly, practice is not a place for socialization.
At the end of practice, our lane leader, Courtney, lingers by the side of the pool as everybody else retrieves their towels. She looks exhausted. We all push ourselves so hard, in the attempt to improve our times. We all have dinner to look forward to, and we all have homework waiting to be done afterwards. As Courtney comes over to dry off, I ask her if she qualified for Junior Olympics at the meet last weekend. She throws back her head and laughs, claiming that she still has two seconds to take off of her time. It seems like she is going to go on, but suddenly turns around and pulls out her cell phone, texting furiously. I glance around as I gather my stuff, and notice that everybody is talking on their phones, or listening to their iPods. The ripples in the pool are slowly dying down, and the clear water is reflecting the last glimmers of sunlight. I go outside the gate, and sit on the wall near my bike, as night settles, and it becomes very quiet. Finally, I get onto my bike and pedal off into the heavy darkness.





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