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  • I learned to swim when I was very young—one of those ages when it’s impossible to create any real memory. So when I say I remember learning to swim, it’s most likely a contrived memory from all the talking and all the pictures shown me by my parents and their old friends.

    There was this one picture of me swimming in the local, public pool. Actually, I’m not swimming, I’m floating.
    I’ve always been a good floater, but I think I liked it even before I knew I was good at it, and that makes it doubly my own.
    In the picture, my mom’s and dad’s arms are visible on either side of my torso, poised to lift me up if I start to doubt and struggle. But I never doubted when I was floating—like I said, it was doubly my own—but when I told them this they smiled over my lower head like they knew better. Even when I grew up and they couldn’t smile with each other anymore, they instead smiled with me, as if they couldn’t see that I wasn’t smiling back.

    I didn’t count how many times I saw the picture; it feels like a lot but I think it’s really only once. It was between my mother’s fingertips as she held it up for me and my dad to admire. We sat in the living room, in the corner of the home, where all the photo-albums are stacked on the bottom shelf in some precious order I could never understand and therefore couldn’t argue with. We always viewed the images only in this corner, and my parents always had to be there, to put the portraits in front of my eyes because the grease from my young skin would’ve smudged them.
    I remember sneaking back to the corner alone a few times, slouching in the black leather chair and staring sideways down at that bottom shelf. I sat and glared and imagined a pair of chubby, slimy little hands smearing some snot-like substance all over the smiling faces of the images. I didn’t actually do it, of course. Imagining was satisfactory.

    I can remember actually very few of the pictures they showed me, only the number of times I gripped the slack from the clothes on my body as substitutes for the coveted image in front of me.
    Except I remember the one of me swimming.
    I mean, I remember floating.
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