There is a memory somewhere in my warm, folded brain that still means something, that doesn’t and couldn’t have any significance attached to it by anyone else. There is a memory that I’ve locked up that is still fully mine and is its own captive world of cool water and the sunlight flashing out around us. We were swimming in a lake like those warmed-up greenish-brown lakes with the mud banks and willows that you can find in the summer. There are enough fish in there that you could fish if it was a Saturday afternoon and the sun had gotten high and you still had nothing done and nothing to get done and no particular thoughts in that warm folded grey brain of yours besides to find a grassy place where the sun stormed down in its towering silence and the breeze comes through when you get too warm.
It was that kind of lake.
It looked warm and still in there until I swung out as far as I could and flung myself in, then I could feel how cool it was and how new the old water seemed to be. It was like being in a new place, with the coldest water down around my feet and it gradually warming all the way up along my body until the line around my shoulders where there was no more water because my head was in the July air and I was breathing it in.
They were all closer in, splashing and scrabbling back up the bank to the rope and swinging out again and again. I watched a little and they started calling out for me to get out and swing in again, and to try doing the back flip this time. I looked over their heads and then leaned back in the water so that I was floating and my ears were underneath and there was nothing but the muffling pressure of the lake sounds, the slow music of the water than kept its own strange rhythm.
Lazing out towards the middle, the Sun was across my face and with my eyes closed the world was bright red and weightless and eternally caught up in the contented sadness of the afternoon.
I flipped over and dove down.
I kicked hard and pulled the water past me and reached down.
It was cold and my ears were crushing in.
Kicking harder, pulling more and more and more and then my hands brushed the reeds and I knew the mud was close; the silty black of the lake floor.
In a slimy rush my hand went in up to my wrist and I grabbed two fistfuls of the stuff before kicking off and rising up to the airy light and feeling the mud slipping out through my fingers as I gripped it so tight because I wanted it all to come back up with me, into the day.
My eyes were open and the bright spot was growing, was coming down to me. Then I was through.
Shaking the hair and water out of my eyes I smeared the mud across my face and my hair and felt like part of the lake, and old like it was. I felt deep and dark and cold and muddy all the way down as I swam in, and I thought about how the day is always young and dark when it dies and how high the stars are and how many peoples’ hearts were beating at the same time as mine right now this second ba-dum ba-dum ba-dum.
I bet a lot of hearts were. Would we all have recognized each other or known we had anything in common or would we just look at each other and think oh, he’s fat or she’s really little or any of the other dumb things we think that never mean much.
So I thought about those things and swam in slowly and dove under once to get the mud off.