“Guys, it’s almost time to go! Have you got your swimsuits on? Your goggles?”
“Yeah, Maribel, we’re out here playing with Bunny!”
My brother and I called back, feeding our rabbit, Bunny, some pellets. He would eat a whole bag of them if we forgot to take them back into the house. We made sure Bunny was well fed with a dish of water for the rest of the day before leaving. You could tell today was going to be a hot one, from the already stuffy morning we had a couple hours earlier. Me and my brother were super excited for our first pool day of the season.
“Hey Ant, I’ll race you back to the house. Loser has to jump into the pool, and they have to touch the bottom of the four foot—
Before I had finished my sentence, Ant had taken off.
“THAT’S NOT FAIR YOU COME BACK HERE RIGHT NOW, YOU CHEATER”
My exasperated cries left me as I, too, shot out the backyard like a rocket, and jumped into the car.
Maribel had set up two towels, one for her to sunbathe and one for her kid daughter, Alibel, to play on with her toys. The rest of us, however, bounded over to the shallow-ish part of the pool.
“You have to jump in first. We both know you totally lost that race.” Ant tormented.
“That wasn’t fair! I was right in the middle of my sentence, and you just took off! You are such a cheater!”
I doubled back around Ant and shoved him into the water, but he wasn’t going to go down without taking me down with him. I thought of Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games.
“If we burn, you burn with us!”
We both splashed into the cold pool, howling with laughter. We warmed up quickly, half-swimming around the shallow end.
The overhead loudspeakers blared an announcement.
“The deep end of Rinconada Pool is now open. I repeat, the deep end of Rinconada pool is now open. Testing will begin shortly.”
Without a moment’s hesitation, I climbed out of the pool and walked swiftly to Maribel.
“Me and Ant are going to go to the deep end and jump off the diving board.”, I announced, without even asking Ant about it first.
“Wow, you two must be so brave! I could never do that when I was a kid.”
I regarded this statement carefully, wondering what the significance of going in the deep end was, anyway. It’s just a couple feet deeper, right? I didn’t really care. I was going to jump off a diving board, and I was going to look awesome doing it, just like everyone else. Everyone else could also probably swim too, but that was definitely not the important part here. I just saw a six year old jump off that diving board. How hard could it be?
“ANT COME ON, WE’RE GOING INTO THE DEEP END TO JUMP ON THE DIVING BOARDS.”
“Uhhh, no no no no no. And you can’t go either. This is definitely not a good idea. We’ve never even been in the deep end, and Mommy isn’t even here!”
“Stop being a worrywart”, I retorted. “We’ll be fine. Come on, you don’t want me to die alone, do you?”, I joked. “Come on!” I grabbed his wrist and pulled him over to the other side of the pool, and we both got into the two different lines for the diving boards.
The line was faster than I initially expected. Kid, after kid, after kid jumped off the diving boards. Some doing cannonballs or flips in the air before splashing into the water, giggling and talking to their friends. Everyone did it flawlessly, and that six year old girl went at least three times! My turn was approaching rapidly, and butterflies were fluttering in my stomach. No, not butterflies. Worms. Big, thick, and gross garden worms were churning and twisting in my abdomen. Right then and there, I missed my bunny rabbit, always licking and cuddling me when I’m sad, and jumping on top of me, begging for treats when I’m happy. I pushed the melancholy thought out of my mind. I can do this. Ant will be with me. It’s all gonna be okay, I thought. I willed the line to go faster, so I could get it over with. Wait. It’s going too fast. I’m two people ahead of Ant. I’ll have to go first! I turned, ran out of the line, and placed myself back at the end. I was embarrassed to chicken out, but I had to. Besides, Ant would want to do it together, right?
When I returned to the front of the line, Ant was also there, to my right. I gave him a thumbs up, and climbed the rungs of the diving board ladder. My brother followed suit. I stared at the clear blue pool water, wondering how I got myself here. I played the past events in my mind. Oh right, this is my fault. Dang it. Sorry Ant. I caught his eye, and gave him a— I don’t know a word for it— a look that said, sorry.
I plunged into the water.
First I was choking. Then, I was drowning. I frantically kicked for the surface of the water. Eventually, right before I gave up and let myself sink to the bottom, my head finally broke through, and I twisted around in a frenzy, looking for my younger brother, but he was nowhere to be found. I panicked. What if he’s dead, on the pool floor? If not that, he’s almost dead, wondering how terrible his older sister could be. Wondering how I got us into this situation. Wondering if I really loved him. Of course I did, but he didn’t know that. After all, this is happening to us because of me. SNAP OUT OF IT, I thought to myself. You can’t be thinking of this crap at a time like this. You need to get Ant, and get out of here! I pushed harder, trying to tread the water, and searched for Ant. Then, I saw him, getting dragged out the pool by a lifeguard. Lucky duck, he’s gonna get saved, and I’ll be left here to die, all because I wanted to be like everyone else. I wanted to look cool, amazing, and talented. But none of that matters now, because I’m going to die. I was being selfish, why wouldn’t I want Ant to get rescued first, to live? None of this was his fault, and he deserved to live more than I did, but of course I’m going to try to survive too.
I continued my seemingly endless charade of half-treading water, but it wasn’t working. Only my eyes would break the surface, but I’d sink back down after ten seconds. I needed a different tactic. I pushed backed up, and attempted to wave my arms above my head. Finally, a tall, brunette, big-boned lady spotted me from about five feet away.
“Do you need help!?”
Of course I needed help! I’m drowning over here, you stupid lady! I can’t swim! Didn’t you see my brother get dragged out a couple seconds ago!? Like, come on! You can’t be that stupid. Gosh, people these days. But I didn’t say that, because I needed to be rescued as quickly as possible. I just nodded vigorously, trying to make my way over, as she effortlessly floated over.
“Okay, just grab onto my arm, and I’ll bring you back. Hold on, everything’s gonna be fine.”
My fingers were trembling on my newfound lifeline, but I felt safe. She grabbed me, held me like a baby, and swam to the edge of the pool. Then, she lifted me out, so I sat right next to my brother on the scratchy concrete. The next twenty minutes was a blur, of crying, hugging, calling my parents, and talking to pool staff.
On the car ride home, I apologized to my brother, but he didn’t answer. He was too traumatized by the past events, I figured. I sat in the silence, thinking about what changes I could have made to prevent the pool incident. I thought about just staying in the shallow end, or waiting for testing to actually begin before just running over and jumping into the pool, like a crazy person. I reflected on the consequences of my actions, and how irresponsible it was to drag my innocent, younger brother into my whole mess of thinking irrationally.
At home, I was still in my swimsuit, my bulky goggles hanging around my neck, and a thick, fluffy, white towel wrapped around my shivering, damp, body. Ant and I were in our parents’ room. Maribel had left a couple minutes ago, and my parents had just finished lecturing me about what happened in the pool.
“You are not to go in the deep end, any deep end, until we get you some swimming lessons. You need to learn to be more responsible. This will not happen again. Do you understand?”
My mom was on the verge of yelling, but I knew she meant well. She was just worried and exasperated. Two of her kids almost killed themselves in a pool with a babysitter. I would be worried to death also.
After our conversation was over, I strolled to the other side of the room, around the big, comfy, king-sized bed that took up a big part of the room. I hadn’t checked on Bunny for at least three hours, and I had to make sure he was okay. The second story window showed our backyard, and the big, circular, chicken-wire pen that housed our rabbit during the day. He loved to roam, jump, play, eat, and rest on the soft grass that took residence in our backyard. Right now, he was flopped on his side, surrounded by the pink flower droppings of the tree that hangs above his exercise pen, giving him shade. Not appearing to be breathing. Immediately, I knew something was wrong. I ran, ripping my goggles off my neck, leaving my towel on the floor in a heap. I sprinted, almost slipping down the clean, wooden stairs, forced the sliding back door open and booked it to Bunny’s pen. I called for him, half expecting him to just wake up from his slumber, and bound happily over to the side of his pen. He did not. I knew. I crumpled to the ground, my sobs quiet and turning, repeating the same sentence over and over again in my mind. My bunny is dead. My bunny is dead. My bunny is dead.
We later found out the bunny died because of the tree’s flowers, and this was mostly my fault. I noticed how much he loved the pink droppings, and I would carry him up so he could munch on the tree, or just give him a handful to graze off of. As you can see, I wasn’t being very responsible with his life, or even my own, given what happened at the pool. I realize now that I need to think about my decisions and how they will impact me in the long run. Not after, but before I actually make them. I should’ve researched this backyard tree before feeding it to my beloved pet. I should’ve actually thought about jumping off that diving board, especially since I dragged Ant with me. Although I had realized this earlier at the pool, it wasn’t enough, and it was too late.