ocean

1956

by Ray Stiefvater

I am 14 or 15 here
I am at the local swimming pool
on Overlook Drive in Schenley Park
I am trying to dive into the water
but all I can muster is a
painful belly flop
that stings my chest and stomach

I am immediately embarrassed
because I am sure people have been
watching me
I imagine them laughing
I plunge through the surface like a rock
the water closes around me
it muffles the sounds of the world above me

I drift down to the bottom of the pool
and remain there for as long as
my breath holds out
I count to 20 and
bob to the surface like cork
I swim to the side of the pool
and climb the ladder out of the water

I feel the sun’s heat
on the bottoms of my feet
she is on the other side of
the pool with two of her girlfriends
they are smoking cigarettes and sunning themselves
on large beach towels
she is so absolutely perfect to me

I squint through the blinding sunlight at her
she glares at me over her sunglasses
it’s a contemptuous look
it’s like a slap on the back of
someone who’s sunburned
she can kill with her eyes

I jump back into the pool and swim to the bottom
I want to drown and be over with it
I’m so love sick
I hate myself bcause of it
I am 14 or 15 here and I love her with all my heart
but of course she doesn’t love me
I just irritate her like a paper cut