I wait anxiously as she finishes gracefully into the wall beneath me. I have butterflies in my stomach, restlessly trying to escape. My knee throbs one last time before pain far more powerful, envelops it. I look side to side to investigate my enemies, my sisters in sport. I step up to the block and take deep, fulfilling breaths to ease my pounding heart. I hear the double whistle, tuck my head down, and look back at my friends standing behind me. The shock of the buzzard sets an explosion off the land I called my home, and starts an experience among the water. My fingertips are aware of the water beneath me first, as I momentarily levitate. Soon the water surrounds me, and the urge to breathe alters to feel so unnatural, so compulsory than it once had been. A weightless feeling overcomes me as I begin to kick to repel myself forward. Soft, frail jolts possess my legs to maintain composure. I come up for my first breath, the first of many, and I feel nourishment radiate throughout my body. The board held up by my dear friend at the wall assures me of what I already know. The information she upholds will ultimately decide the nature of my transgression, success or failure. In order to avoid fretting about this, I sing songs in my head to pass the time. Today it’s Mozart’s Figaro. My body glides to the rhythms of the violin and to the intentions of the composer. As I listen to the music of the water, I hear my friends cheering as I flip off my turns. The urge to stop is tremendous, and the pain is almost unbearable. At some point, it is impossible to know when; the determination of my mind to endure overcomes the desire of my body to quit. Suddenly, the insufferable cravings to give up are destroyed by the want, and the need to finish. Without the pain to hold me back, seventeen laps pass by successfully. I pick up the speed, and I kick harder and faster than I can ever recall kicking before. Quick jerks of the legs quake my entire body as I pull uncontrollably. I can see the wall, the ending to this antagonizing experience. I can visualize my coach running next to me on the land, as if he is confused if he is yelling for me or at me. I can now see that the girls I called my enemies have long disappeared into laps I’ve already conquered. Memories fade with the song, and my surroundings vanish. It’s merely the water and I. I no longer see the wall, and surprisingly, I don’t care how far away it is. This moment and beyond will remain a mystery to me, for everything jumps to the instant of treading water, removing my cap and goggles. Every ounce of my being is tense and I can’t breathe. I witness my sisters’ finish to the wall. My enemies died when their defeats were born. A final smile widens across my face as I read my time on the scoreboard. At the same time I hear my coach shout with merriment for the same reason. Nothing beats this moment. Everything you go through before and during the race can never destroy this moment. Although I am aware of my placement, it turns out that a victory over your enemies is not near as sweet as the victory over your last, victorious time.
The Victorious Twenty
March 5, 2008