Richard Wright

author of strange, dark fictions

Getting Fitter

Drowning With Bats

Tonight, I had my first experience with drowning. Not to be repeated, I hope.

I do most of my practice late at night in the pool, on my own. I’m not daft enough to deliberately go out of my depth yet, and tend to swim from one side of the pool to the other, near the middle. I can get my feet down with my head above the water just fine, if I need to.

The problem is, side to side isn’t far enough anymore. I need a bit more distance, to find a rhythm, and practise breathing. I only need to take one breath from one side to the other, and need to get the habit of doing it comfortably more than once before I stop and turn round. The solution is to start at one corner at the shallow end, and swim diagonally to my deepest point. Not a problem, except tonight I somehow misjudged the angle. By the time I got to the wall and tried to put my feet down, the bottom wasn’t there.

I confess, I panicked. I was just far enough from the wall that I couldn’t reach it, and my head emptied. I couldn’t go up, and was in the wrong position to keep swimming. I was also out of breath. Thrashing happened, along with swallowing water. Somehow, through no skill on my part, I got hold of the side after twenty seconds or so, but it felt a lot longer. I hauled myself out, heart hammering, and felt very stupid indeed.

It took a while for my pulse to get back to normal, so I sat and watched bats diving at the surface of the pool. I’ve no idea if they’re drinking, or swooping for low flying insects – it’s very soothing to watch though.

I got back in, and practiced some more, but my confidence was pretty shot. Even in the shallows, I was panicking when it came to putting my feet down. Not big, thrashy panic, but definite surges of anxiety. Will have to get back down tomorrow, and put that right. The most annoying thing was that I’d been deeper earlier while trying to learn to tread water – letting myself sink to the bottom, then pushing back up and trying to stay up. Not a problem. It all emptied from my head in that one moment though.

To compound things, I came back home and smoked. Pure anxiety and annoyance. Now I feel like an idiot, and have smoker’s breath all over again. Not an auspicious evening…

Back to square one on both fronts, alas.

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