I always smile when I swim. Not because I enjoy swimming that it brings me endless hours of joy. I’m not a competitive swimmer either, it’s completely for casual reasons. You see, there was a time in my life that I actually thought it mattered how many friends I had. For some reason, in my misspent youth, I thought popularity was a deciding factor in how successful I would be in life. I’m sure most teenagers go through this phase and even some adults never leave this place. But this is where swimming completely changed my outlook on being popular.
In my Freshman year of High School, I’d somehow managed to worm myself into a crowd of popular girls by being paired with one of them in my science class. It was simple at first. I played the innocent new girl that wanted to wear her clothes, have pretty hair like her, and give her the answers to every test. I played her guinea pig; which seemed to be necessary role if I wanted to be a part of the pack. For a few weeks, which felt like an eternity at the time, I bowed to her every whim until it seemed my initiation was over.
I was invited to a pool party that the alpha female of the group was hosting while her parents were out of town. It felt like my time to shine had finally come. I was being accepted into the group! Break out the cake and candles, I was now a popular girl!
Well, I would’ve been pleased that weekend if there was a cake with my name on it but mere minutes into the party I learned that my initiation was a farce. I became the jester, the runt of the group that was to be poked at and made fun of for my position.
The alpha decided to show a display of her dominance by pouring soda all over my brand new bathing suit that my mother purchased for me with extra money she’d made from working late at the diner. The girl who I’d recently played guinea pig too thought it would be funny to pull my goggles away from my face. This caused them to smack back into my nose where a bruise formed in between my eyes. My pride inevitably returned to the pits of hell that I felt weeks prior to making these supposed friends.
When they’d finished having fun at my expense, I retreated to the safety of the shallow end of the pool and watched as they gathered around the alpha female. She was going to astound them with an impressive dive into the deep end. They double dared her, and everyone knows that you can’t back out of a double dare. The deep end of the pool must have been about twelve feet deep and one of the pack tried to call her bluff. Something about how she couldn't swim. This angered the alpha greatly. She quickly became determined to show off her immortality in defiance. It was a bad idea.
I watched as the pack followed closely behind her as she approached the deep dark waters. She stood on the edge of the pool, lined up her toes and jumped into the air. Her golden mane glittered in the sunlight impressively; but instead of meeting the water with a graceful dive, she landed face first into the over chlorinated water. The pack laughed in unison over the booming music, resembling the sound of the hyena. They were so preoccupied at the hilarity they didn’t notice she wasn’t coming up for air, or maybe they didn’t care? It was hard to tell at this point as she thrashed about and the group abandoned her.
I slowly dipped my body under the water and looked toward the deep end of the pool with my goggles, the sting of the bruise still caused me pain. I watched her struggling to come up for air as she started to sink to the bottom. Bubbles formed out of her mouth and floated towards the surface. I sat there, watching as her feet kicked and her arms flailed. She really couldn’t swim.
I heard her muffled screams as she clutched at her throat and chest, convulsing as water quickly filled her lungs. It didn’t take long until she stopped thrashing and her body became lifeless. Blood rushed to her eyes, her skin turned purple, and her body soon succumbed to the physics of the water.
I could have saved her or called for help. After all, I had many summers of swimming classes at the public pool under my belt. But instead I sat there quietly under the water watching her corpse, hiding my hyena smile.