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  • The self-unconsciousness of childhood, the hot sun of Texas latitudes, and the absence of no-running rules. I'm at a pre-swimming skills age (and I learned to swim fairly young) at a barbecue of family and friends in Dallas I think. At this age it makes sense to have your heroes--in my case, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles--printed on your underwear, and it makes sense to be wearing nothing but those underwear as you play in the first step of the pool and run around the pool's circumference as fast as you can.

    I think I'm the only kid, everyone else in my memory is "old". They have canned beers in foam insulators, paper plates with beans and barbecued chicken. I can't remember if anyone bothered to tell me to stop the running but it probably wouldn't have made a difference.

    And then I fall in to the south end--the deep end--of a pool shaped like the state of Texas. In the attempt to gain as much speed as possible I lean too far in, resisting the centrifugal force my curved path creates, and I'm in the water. It's hard to tell how much time passed and whether or not I was scared but when I relive the memory, there is no fear and time has stopped. From within the water I can see the refracted shapes of all the old people standing outside the pool. I can see the sun rippling on the surface of the pool. I can feel the Texas-warm water completely enveloping me. And I can see the rushing figure of a man following the same path I had just taken, leaning in and jumping into the water at an angle.

    I hear the explosion of sound he makes when he breaks the surface, bringing a thousand bubbles of air into the water. The images projected on the water are sloshed about with faster, bigger waves. And then the man's hands roughly grab me and throw me out of the pool.

    This man, who I think was a second cousin or of some such distant relation, became part of the mythology of my childhood. He was the guy who "saved my life" and, though that's pretty much all I can remember of him, he'll always be one of my favorite childhood people. Some time later I'm told I gave my mom scratch marks on her back in my resistance to swimming lessons with her in the pool. I, thankfully, have no memory of this and the peace I remember feeling, suspended in the south end of Texas is seamlessly connected with the peace I feel now when I go swimming.
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