A Tadpole in a Pond

March 24, 2009
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I was bobbing on what felt like a bottomless ocean floor, like a five-year-old, too short to even realize there is sand under my feet. I stayed afloat on the glossy green water just like the otter on a lazy day. My feet kept sinking to the bottom, but my chest shot up on the top. Everything about my swimming seemed too unnatural. The bulky elastic band around my waist was too uncomfortable. The further I swam away from shore, more air squeezed out of the purple floater. Fear struck my back giving me a cold sensation up my spine. Only a minute later did I realize my floater popped and I barely stayed floating. My arms flew above my head, while my feet struggled to kick from the bottom. My body gasped for air as my lungs got tighter and tighter. Thoughts flickered in my brain of all the “ifs” that could happen to me. What if someone on shore couldn’t see my hands waving up and down.

Below water, I heard a loud whistle vibrating through the mass deposit of water. I recognized that familiar whistle and that familiar splish splash splish similar to what I see on t.v. when there is a race between hundreds of swimmers fighting for the finish line. Today it was different; there was no race. All the commotion was caused by a lifeguard who heroically scooped me in his arms and restored oxygen through my lungs. That was the last of me at the beach and the last of me near any pool of water.

Looking back at what happened ten years ago, I still remember the persevering girl who insist on exploring the ocean, yet it only left her in fear. Today, I was determined to find my weakness, determined to free my arms and my legs from their usual tense condition. Instructor Larry was screaming on the top of his lungs, “Kick, kick, kick, kick, kick. Don’t forget to breathe,” he yelled ebulliently. It was my third week of class and my arms were jauntily screaming to let go of the board I relied on to keep afloat. Lisa, who learned to swim when she was five, swam by me like a humpback whale flipping through the sea. Her movements still seem exotic to me, but I was optimistic about giving it a try.

I turned to the far end of the pool, inhaled deeply, and slowly exhaled myself into the cool sea. As I was about to kick off, I shrank back and coiled like a snake ever so slightly. John, who attended High School, made his way towards me. He was an expert at swimming because it was required in his school to pass a swimming test to graduate. “Loosen up, if you don’t your legs will cramp up,” he told me with his nonchalant tone. He moved in front of me and looked me straight in the eye. He held out his arms urging me to grab on to his. I slowly incorporated all the techniques I was taught and piece by piece put them into use. I felt my legs moving just like the propellers on a ship, and my body relaxed just like the ducks moving along with the current of the sea. At the middle of the pool, he slowly released my hand, finger by finger. My pinky was the first to slip from his grip and first to freely move along with everything beside me. Then, it was my ring finger, followed by my middle and then until my entire hand was far from his reach.

I followed John’s command obediently, and I slowly realized my body began to blend with the monochromatic water. I was swimming like a fish heading nowhere in particular. I was swimming like a dolphin stretching its left fin and then its right fin. I was swimming like an eagle soaring its wing through the sky euphorically. I was no longer a tadpole in a pond; I became a dolphin of the sea. When Larry blew his whistle, that familiar sound no longer scared me. My legs zealously jerked with excitement and forbade me from leaving the water. Larry understood my enthusiasm and gave me another fifteen minutes. “I’m telling you, only fifteen minutes all right? Even fishes get wrinkles once they stay in the water too long.”

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