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"No amount of fire or freshness can challenge what a man may store up in his ghostly heart" — F. Scott Fitzgerald

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Still working on the title; the current title is just a placeholder

Mostly complete wrt plot. I'm still going through with small revisions to clarify and/or hit closer to the point.

Duality and Reciprocity

October 25, 2015


    When he woke he could sense the frame of his bed and nothing else. He was racing through an unchanging darkness toward consciousness, drawn by a tickle in his throat. The tickle urged him to cough, but he could not cough. For three terrorized, abortive breaths he tried to gather air behind the scab in his throat, and he slipped some through and returned to sleep.
    The doctor asked if he had any family history. “Sometimes I feel a coldness in my throat,” he told her, “a cold, chemically-sweet taste in my mouth when I run out of breath during practice.”
    “Chlorine-induced asthma,” the doctor diagnosed. “it’s very common.”
    He felt a hopeful security in the diagnosis, like he had when he read about lactose- or gluten-intolerance. There was a promise in the doctor’s diagnosis, a promise he clung onto like an anchor. It promised an understandable, biological solution to his problems. A hope that swimming was once again about lungs and arms, before it was about friendship and control and fear.
    He tightened his goggles and bounced his warm-up. A rippling through his lungs he told himself was a strong pre-race heart rate, but seen from another view wriggled like anxiety.
    “Good luck,” a friend told him.
    “Are you pumped?”
    “No. It’s not about being pumped; the trick is to not be afraid.”
    “What would you be afraid of?” she asked.
    “Drowning. Aren’t you?”
    They now sat on their beds, in the safety of warm sweatshirts and dark windows. Miles of candle-lit nighttime blackness they spanned over with Facebook.
    “Sometimes,” she began, “when I’m laying down trying to sleep, I start to think of things, and my thoughts  spin faster and faster, like a hurricane in my head. And I get afraid, because I can’t control them.”
    Swimming is mostly about control. Not arm muscle or leg muscle but core muscle, because only the core can keep the back flat on the surface, the breaths low and quick, and the hips rolling sixty degrees, the shoulders following the hips, the elbows following the shoulders, the hands following the elbows. The revolving layers of destiny and identity in concert for their transitory eclipse.
    [Put something intermediary here.Brief, simple]
    He started to swim with his eyes closed. Through goggles he could see only the foggy bottom and splashes in the peripheral, but by feel and by touch  he could imagine the layout of his entire self:  the dip in the lower back, the elbow bending behind his back, and  the position of his feet, their angle,  the weight they carried, and the exact moment when they needed to escape the water.
    The head coach called them out of the pool. They sat on wet tiles hugging themselves and listened to the coach over the drone of the filters. The voice echoed. “You need to pick up the effort,”
    He already knew of his failure and laughed, bitter, resenting, at the coach’s effort to scare him. He was not afraid of one bad practice; he had seen hundreds, years, of bad practices.
    “Stop making excuses for yourselves. I don’t care if your blood is lethargic because of all the leftover turkey you ate before practice. I don’t care if...”
    And the coach, an oracle, repeated every explanation that had passed his mind.
    “Be honest with yourself,”
    At those words a sensation startled him. Why  am I still here? I gave up on this...And an image came to him, a couple of faces, sun over Cambridge, a time before swimming was about control and fear.
    An idea began in him. He didn’t say it, but it swelled up like a bubble of golden blood rising from a clean pore. It pushed aside the trappings and scabs of stale thoughts until it filled his mind.
    He said: “There is a part of me who wants to grow and live, and there’s a part of me, immature, holding me back, suffocating me. I will kill that part of me. I will escape.”
    He swam a 200 freestyle. There were no numbers and no expectations and he finished unbothered by the speed. He walked around the pool for his warm down, and his throat was tight and his lungs were strong. That night he lay in bed feeling the stretch of his lungs and thought of a time when they were always that strong. In terror he thought he might've had it all wrong, that he was poisoning himself with the chlorine he thought was strengthening him, that he had lost some part of himself to swiming years ago, and it was still in that basement pool, drowning. He had almost lost consciousness in that 200 free, and he had just continued without noticing, eyes closed, imagining his technique. One day he will simply fall asleep, floating up and out while his body continues stroking. Laying in his bed he experienced the same terror of infinity he had felt when, as a child, he realized for the first time his parents were going to die.
Still working on the title; the current title is just a placeholder

Mostly complete wrt plot. I'm still going through with small revisions to clarify and/or hit closer to the point.


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