One of my biggest regrets is never learning to swim. Sure, if I flail around hard enough I can usually stay afloat for a very short time, but it’s like watching a seal try to run. Funny to you, not to the seal.
We had a day off for once and decided to hit the beach. Took the usuals - towels, sun cream, enough food and drink to feed 40 people, minimal clothing and no modesty whatsoever. I just dozed in the shallows, elbows and feet firmly planted against the waves while watching the others in the deeper water playing water polo and using each other as impromptu diving boards.
It looked great. Really enticing. I mean how hard can swimming be? Even bloody cats can do it. Start to head out, and that’s when it happened. A wave smacked me square in the face. Wasn’t even a big wave, just a ripple, really. May not be able to swim, but apparently teleportation is one of my skills, because I were on dry sand in under a second. The fear was, once more, more powerful than the fun. Sucks sometimes.
The odd thing is when I were a kid, I loved swimming. Not saying it was terribly elegant even then, more walrus than dolphin, but me and my friends would go swimming most afternoons in the summer. It was a flooded quarry, pretty deep, but in easy diving range was an old car. Diving down and forcing your eyes open to see this rusting relic from the 30s was a special thing. Someone would steal a few matches and a couple of their parents cigarettes to both be smoked while drying and burn off the inevitable leeches. Salad cream and dandelion leaf sandwiches on bread so white it could flash blind you instantly were eaten, while we talked about the important stuff in life. The massive goldfish that someone had dumped into the quarry would rise to the surface as the sun hit the right spot to heat the water. Some of them were nigh as long as your arm. They loved bits of the bread and would fight over them.
It sounds boring. It were fun. Sometimes the better divers would go for crayfish and we’d cook the tails on sticks over a very small fire. People had been swimming there for decades before we started - it were an older sibling to younger sibling sort of thing, and we had rules. A fire in one place only, a naturally slightly hollowed chunk of limestone, and you would cut shitwood and stack it on the right in this little cave near the fire rock.
Then all that went. Totally stupid thing as well. We had a canoe. Nothing fancy, a 16 foot long one. Dad had the stern and steering duties, Mom and Sis were in the middle and I had the front paddle and was bloody proud of it. It flipped over one day, the wake from a speedboat on the lake. Me, being stupid, held on to my paddle and got stuck under it. It couldn’t have been more than a minute before Dad threw the canoe off me, but I can’t abide water out of my depth since.
I love the sea for the same reason I love flying. It’s open. Nothing between you and the horizon, and it’s somehow clean. The sea even holds you up, air, not so much. Yet I trust air more. I can breathe that stuff.