Day 163: An Excerpt

by Tom Noonan

In my first memory, I’m drowning.  Well, not right away, I remember watching my dad swim, his body gliding on the top of the water, the mechanics of it, how simple things like that can look.  He swam in college but never made the travel roster, sticking around all four years only because it was the only way he could get access to a pool.  I remember going back for an alumni day and watching his old coaches, hunched and creaking by then, try and remember who he was.  They didn’t even have a nametag for him.

But he kept swimming, even on that day in Hilton Head, with a storm blowing in and my mom headed back to the room.  The clouds looked like smoke.

I don’t remember how old I was.  It was before I knew those kinds of things, before people told me about those kinds of things.  I was just sitting on the side of the pool, waiting for my dad to carry me around, so I could swim, like he did, on top of the water, kicking furiously but moving at one pace, under control.  I can’t remember how I got close enough to fall in, or if I had jumped, but the next thing I remember is being at the bottom of the pool, looking at the sky refracted by the water, it started to look like a lid.  Then there was my dad, under the water but his eyes wide open, terrified, reaching down and pulling me towards the open air.

I don’t remember resurfacing, breathing again, but I still feel that drowning sensation lingering in every room I’m in, coming up sometimes, just away from my fingertips, like when I tore all the tendons in my thumb, and I felt like I was swallowing the entire stadium.