It is a hot day near the end of the school summer holidays. It has been the usual. So much swimming. Chlorine is the smell of summer. Stretchy bathers that are wearing away. Rashies that sag to the knees.
A pile of notes has arrived for me from the Uni.
I am going to study.
I am in wet bathers at my desk. I open the package. Jasper thinks it is a present. It is of a kind.
It has modules in it. Wrapped in plastic and prepunched ready for a lever arch file. I can make a trip to Office Works. Legitimately.
I begin to read what they call Module Zero on the internet. It has taken me an age to get this far. For some reason (but no doubt something I was to blame for) I had created two logins and the one I am using has no material in its downloadable files. They needed to give me a new password and chose elephant. Why elephant I wonder? I access it. Module Zero. It is a pre module. It is something to think about before you even begin to study. Reading it makes my heart race. It is about learning and memory and what are the best ways to motivate you and how to remember and how to study. Left brain. Right brain. What about No brain? What I am remembering is the terror of University. The fear of failure. Yes like Pavlov’s dog the bundle of notes have triggered a learned response. Panic.
I tell myself to breath. As if from heaven, I am interrupted by ten year olds who must go to the pool or else they will die.
Here they spend time devising a plan to get ice cream.
Eating a proper lunch first might just be the only way.
It is too hot to be a spectator. I get in to do laps. But it is half hearted; since I have done all the laps I had planned to do this week. I can just get in the water and flop about. But habit kicks in and so I mosey on up and down. In the lane next door a man is swimming in his khaki knee length shorts complete with belt.
Mmm I think. He must be desperate to swim. Overwhelmed by the heat perhaps. Some kind of foreign tourist unaccustomed to bathing suits…
At the end of the fifty metres I am about to turn when I look across and see him sitting on the edge of the pool smiling broadly at me. Excuse me, he says. I lift my goggles to eye him. What length is the pool?
Clearly he is pleased with the completion of his one lap.
It is an Olympic pool, I say. Fifty metres long.
Everyone is so happy here, he says. So many laughing children.
Yes, I suppose so.
I have not thought about who is happy and who is not.
I hang on the lane rope looking at him and his smile. Something about him invites questions. Perhaps the way he smiles. He tells me he hasn’t swum in a pool before. Just the ocean. What do you think? I ask. Do you like it?
It is good for my legs because I am a refugee and I have been tortured, he says, still smiling.
Oh, I see, I say not seeing at all. I don’t know what to say next after this. I guess I am unused to having a conversation with someone after they have mentioned their torture.
I prattle on about the pool, about how it is heated and he can come here every day if he wants and it is always the same temperature. He tells me he couldn’t afford to come every day. Someone has paid for him today.
I wish him well. Have a nice swim, I say. I swim off and see him out of the corner of my eye keeping pace with me, a lap across. Sometimes he does a kind of dog paddle and other times an attempt at freestyle. His legs are all over the place but he makes it up and down and up again. Swimming like he has fallen off a boat and is swimming for his life. Saving himself.
As I swim more laps I wonder about his loved ones. Are they in Sri Lanka still? Does he pine for someone? What can he think of the pool, with its inflated crocodile?