The school I attend has a swimming club. It's a big deal, too; They go to national competitions and shit like that. People who join, for the most part, are super serious about it.
I'm one of the exceptions.
To begin with, I never even wanted to join. I spent most of my high school years studying like a madman. I thought I wanted to be a doctor, you know? Like my parents. So I never really did sports, or had much of a social life. All I cared about were grades, grades, grades. One day I would go to an awesome university, Ivy League, and my life would be set. And my parents were with me all the way, too. They were well-off enough to pay my way through college, if I got in.
But then one morning, early in my senior year, I woke up and realized I hated the whole idea. I didn't want people coughing on me. Internal organs grossed me out. Chemistry was impenetrable bullshit. And I was sick, SICK of spending my whole life indoors.
I took a liking to history, instead. But when I told my parents I wanted to be an archaeologist, like Lara Croft, they laughed in my face. They rightly thought I was delusional in every way. They pointed out archaeology wasn't glamorous *or* lucrative. They kept going back to how my fat, unhealthy ass wouldn't last ten minutes bent down under a scorching sun, scrubbing nondescript rocks with a toothbrush. In summary, they weren't having any of it.
So I made a deal with them. Because I'm pretty stubborn, you know? You can probably tell from how I sacrificed years of my life to get better at that one thing I thought I wanted to do. Even though I ended up changing my mind. Alright, I'm not always the best at thinking things through. But I *am* persistent. It's my best quality.
The deal was simple enough: If I wanted to study archaeology, I had to get into shape before the beginning of my last semester. Nothing too fancy--BMI in the Normal bracket, a healthy Body Fat Ratio, and good enough cardio to run the regional inter-schools half-marathon, a 20km route. Not *win*, mind; just run the whole thing. Seniors didn't usually participate, because they were supposed to be busy studying for exams, but it was on me that I was changing my mind so late. Right?
I made a trial run. How hard could it be? I donned my tracksuit and sprinted forward, ignoring the stares and muted snickers of the onlookers. Fifty metres! A hundred! A hundred and fifty... I bent double and wheezed heavily into the dust.
So. Much. Pain.
Fuck. This wasn't going to work.
Plan B, then. I went for my trusty laptop and googled: "best sport to improve cardio". I checked the top several results, and a few commonalities quickly popped out. Running... Rowing... And, strongly recommended by a lot of people who seemed incredibly sure of themselves, swimming. Hey! Swimming! They do that in my school!
Swallowing my pride, I went to my parents and casually suggested it would help if I could join the swimming club. I didn't mention my abject failure at running the marathon, but their mocking smiles left no room for doubt. Somehow, *they knew*. Assholes. Shaking my fist discreetly behind my back, I vowed revenge. When they were seventy five and living in a retirement home, I'd only visit them once a week instead of twice.
"Alright, Malcolm," dad finally said, after he was done pointedly not laughing. "I'm glad you're at least working toward this. Frankly, *this* is grotesque." He poked my side sharply, and my flabbly belly vibrated, rippling outwards from the point of contact. I hated when he did that. "I'll pay for the swimming club," he continued. "No one wants to be treated by an unhealthy doctor."
"Thanks, dad," I replied meekly. Maybe once every two weeks would be enough. And no drinking privileges for the old man.
One week later I went to my first swimming practice. There weren't any requirements for entering the club. They took everyone in. They could use the money, after all. The star athletes were partially funded by all the scrubs who spent the prime years of their youth trying, and failing, to amount to anything in the sport. Did I say sport? It seemed as boring as running, but clearly more difficult and much more wet. I took in the kids of all ages and different levels of skill thrashing around the olympic-sized pool on my way to the locker room. Lovely. I was so looking forward to this. Not.
I put on my mandatory cap, switched into my new briefs and made my way inside. I'd gotten the largest size in the store, but they still cut uncomfortably into my thighs and buttcheeks. I showered, passed through a door and into the pool area proper. It was hot, humid and stank of chlorine. Heads turned as I marched alongside the water, homing in on the buff, middle-aged guy with the whistle.
"Good afternoon," I greeted politely. I waited for him to acknowledge me, but he seemed to be focused on a set of roped off lanes in which a few people were swimming with a perfect butterfly stroke.
"Excuse me, coach?" I tried again. "I'm new." Was the asshole ignoring me? I was paying to be there, damn it. I touched his shoulder. "Hey!"
He spun around. "Can't you see I'm busy?"
"Sorry, sir. I'm Malcolm, and I'm new. It's my first day."
"I see. Welcome to the club, Malcolm. Your membership entitles you to swimming in the pool every weekday between four and seven p.m. Read the instructions in the safety sign. Don't get in the way of your seniors," he rattled off in quick succession. "Have you showered?"
"Good. Go for it, then." He turned back to the swimmers.
"Uhh... I was hoping for some guidance?"
He frowned mightily. Really. I'd never before seen anyone with such a pronounced frown. He looked like a cartoon character. "Well, you're too fat."
"Yes, sir. That's one of the reasons I'm here."
"Just get in the damn pool, then. Swim back and forth. Moving in the water will help you lose weight, but it will take time."
I looked at the blue expanse with wariness. "Err... I'm not sure if..."
"Come on. Jump in, already." He gave me a sharp push on the small of my back.
I staggered and swung forward and into the pool. I broke the surface with a momentum proportional to my mass, that is, extremely high. A very large quantity of water was displaced from the pool and splashed the ledge where I'd been standing, hitting a half dozen kids and drenching the coach's legs. But I didn't see any of this; I was busy drowning.
You see, one thing I'd failed to tell the coach--and he'd neglected to ask--was that I'd never really learned to swim. The largest pool of water I'd previously been in contact with had been in the sink, washing the dishes after the triple helping of spaghetti I like to reward myself with when pulling an all-nighter. (I know what you're thinking, and you're wrong. I shower. I'm not a pig.)
So, being suddenly immersed in water for the first time since (presumably) I was a baby came as a bit of a shock, as you can imagine. At first I didn't move. I touched the floor of the pool and slowly bobbed up to the surface, where I took a breath, then lost my balance and tipped face down. I floated like that for a few seconds until my brain caught up with the situation. I waved my arms wildly, and then my legs, and broke the surface again. Air! I launched myself forward, waving my legs as quickly as I could and paddling with my hands at the incredible speed of almost nothing. I zigzagged toward the other end of the pool, unimpeded by any of the other swimmers--they'd all instinctively moved away from my cannonball--and was feeling almost confident when one of my wildly thrashing legs cramped.
The paralyzing pain distracted me until my lung capacity of about five seconds ran out and I reflexively tried to breathe, only to find out I was underwater and you can't breathe there. I sucked in some water, tried to cough and, failing on all counts, panicked. I screamed, but my scream was muffled and ineffective. My leg refused to move. I waved my arms, trying to draw the stupid coach's attention. Oh, who was I kidding? That was the end of my career as an archaeologist. Lara Croft had never had *that* problem, as far as I knew. Did her breasts help her float? Hmm, no. Mine were probably bigger.
There was an impact ahead and to the right and a blurry figure appeared in my field of vision. It swam straight for me, and when the person got close I instinctively grabbed them and tried to step on them to climb out of the water. But they grabbed me back and tucked in their legs, sinking to the bottom of the pool like a stone and dragging me down with them. The nerve! I let go, and they swam elegantly around me with a couple of strokes. My arms were taken from behind, and I felt a body press firmly against mine.
A moment later, my rescuer pushed against the bottom of the pool, sending us upward. We broke the surface and blessed air again caressed my face. I tried to move again, but my arms were still pinned. "Hey!" I tried to say, but actually just sputtered.
Unfazed, they slowly spun me toward a life preserver that was floating right next to me. "I'm going to let go of your arms," a male voice said. "Grab that, not me. Don't panic." I tried to nod, and he must have seen or felt it, because suddenly my arms were free. I grabbed the life preserver, breathing deeply, or at least as deeply as I could. Really... Air? Air is awesome.
I heard clapping and looked up. A bunch of kids had gathered at the edge of the pool and, presumably, watched the rescue, or at least the final part. I tried to use my working leg to get closer to them. Back near the end the pool, the coach had finally realized something was wrong and was hurrying in our direction.
But wait. If the coach wasn't here, who had helped me? I hadn't seen my savior yet. I looked back over my shoulder, but there was no swimmer nearby.
A quiet splash and the sound of water dripping back into the pool drew my attention to the boy climbing out. He immediately turned around, extended his leg and used his foot to pull the life preserver closer to the edge of the pool. When it bumped the ladder, I grabbed it with my other hand.
He straightened and grinned at me. "Close one, huh? Are you OK?"
My heart skipped a beat. The boy who was now looming above me wore, as I did, regulation briefs and a cap, but that's where the similarities between us ended. He had the body of a swimmer, lean, compact and broad-shouldered. I could see a hint of every muscle in his torso. He had long slim legs, and perfect large feet, bleached and wrinkled from spending too long in the chlorinated water. They were right in front of my face.
I had to resist the urge to kiss them, just to see what they would taste like.
The angel crouched, his smile melting into a look of concern. He had deep blue eyes and pretty pink lips. "Do you understand me? Are you in shock? You should climb out of the water..."
My eyes traveled to his crotch. The swimming briefs left little to the imagination. I wanted to reach out and touch it, but fortunately was distracted by the hand he extended to help me climb out.
I took the hand and he pulled it, trying to help me up, but I couldn't climb with a single leg. He tottered and almost fell forward. I realized he was too light to lift my weight and let go at the last moment, dropping back into the water with another splash. Fortunately I had the presence of mind to hold on to the life preserver.
The coach squatted beside the boy. "Take the left hand," he said curtly. He reached down and pulled at my right, and together they got me out. As soon as my good knee was over the edge, I got back up on my own two feet, only to weather a storm of spittle and bad breath from the guy.
"What do you think you're doing, er, young man?" he had the nerve to ask. "Haven't you read the safety instructions?"
He was really starting to get on my nerves, not to mention my face. "You shoved me into the pool, you asshole," I said. "I don't know how to swim!"
His face went purple. "What did you call me? You're expelled from the club. Get the hell out of here."
"Like hell. What kind of teacher are you?"
"Do I have to call for a tractor, you bag of lard?"
I was speechless. The guy was less mature than my little cousins. I opened my mouth to give him what would certainly have been a calm and collected rebuttal of his hypothesis pertaining to the nature of my physique, but the other boy intervened.
"Coach, he's scared, he almost drowned. He's here to learn how to swim. Can't you just... You know... Teach him?"
The man spun and opened his mouth, but didn't immediately say anything. I saw him visibly deflate. "We're busy," he said in a calmer tone. "There's no time to teach a complete newbie on this schedule."
"I'm a student of this school and I paid the membership fee. Isn't this a swimming club?" I asked. Beside me, the boy also raised his eyebrows.
The coach narrowed his eyes. "Fine. William, *you* teach him. He's your responsability." And, turning around, he walked away. I could swear I saw a gleam of cunning malice in his eye before he left.
"What an asshole," I muttered.
William looked as surprised as I felt. "Fuck yeah I will," he said, quite louder than I had. "Can you walk?" he asked me.
I tried to put my weight on the cramped leg. There was a spike of pain and it buckled under me. "Argh!"
"Be careful!" William said. "Lean on me." He quickly hooked his arm under my armpit and around my back. I noticed for the first time that he was actually fairly shorter than I was. Out of caution, I let him take my weight little by little, but I didn't have to worry. He didn't even stagger. I felt the warmth of his smooth, hard back against my shoulder.
"C'mon," he said. He walked me slowly back to the locker room, my hopping on one foot making more noise than an elephant in a drum factory.
He sat me on a bench. "Cramps are a bitch, but rest there for a bit and it will get better," he advised. "Just until you feel you can walk. You'll be fine."
To my surprise, he walked into the locker area. "Aren't you going back?" I asked.
"Nah. I'll shower for now and make sure you're fine." He took off his cap. He had a mass of frizzy hair, hazelnut-brown, a few centimeters long. I barely had a moment to think how good it looked on him before he pulled down his briefs.
It was still early in the afternoon, and there was no one else around--the other members were in the middle of their swimming session--but I was still surprised by his lack of modesty. He tossed the items toward his locker and stalked confidently across where I was to reach the shower stalls. His pelvis was completely shaved--probably a swimmer thing. His dangling penis was semi-erect, for some reason. As he passed by me, the corner of his mouth turned up. "You're staring!"
I blushed and looked aside, but he went on into the shower without looking back. I heard the water running and fragments of a well-known EDM melody being sung quietly. "Na na na, na na na, na na na..."
Shit, was I smitten. How could any human being be so attractive? My heartbeat was so strong I was afraid I might have palpitations. Dad would probably have laughed in my face, but I wasn't a doctor. Not even a student of medicine, yet.
William came back five minutes later, passed in front of me again--this time I looked away--and returned to his locker, where he finally found a towel. He quickly dried himself off and put on a pair of tight blue jeans, which emphasized his sleek legs, and a black t-shirt with a white stylized "T" on it, which regretably hid his torso from view. He ran his hand through his hair once, picked up his backpack and slammed the locker closed.
"How's it going?" he asked, sitting next to me.
I tested my leg again. "Better. Five more minutes. Once again, thanks for the help."
"No problem. I like how you didn't take that bullshit from the coach," he said. "I don't take shit from anyone, either."
"You must be a good swimmer. Well, uh... Good enough to rescue people, at least?" I said lamely.
"Actually, being a good swimmer isn't enough," he said seriously. "I took a class for it last year. Untrained people shouldn't try it, you know?"
"But yeah. I have been swimming for eight years now. I was the middle school district vice-champion!" he said with pride.
"Ooooh. So that's why you got away with defying the coach like that."
He grinned wickedly. "Damn right. He's not going to risk losing me. So don't worry about that."
"You still got in trouble because of me, though." It was hard, but I forced myself to say the next few words. It was the right thing to do. "Forget about what you said to him. I'll quit the club and find another place. You can go back to your tournament stuff."
"Hmm. What's your name?"
"Well, Malcolm, what do you want to accomplish here? 'cuz if you want to swim competitively, I'm sorry, but you're a few years of hard work away from it. You shoulda started younger."
"What? No! No, not at all. It's a bet I made with my father..." I explained to him about the marathon and my change in career paths.
He got up and looked me up and down. I felt a little ashamed under his gaze. "Hm. Weight loss and cardio, huh? And we have... Four months?"
"Yeah." He smiled. "I'll teach you to swim, *and* I'll try to get you through that marathon. I said I'd help you, right? Let's show that coach, and your father, that you can do it. What do you say?"
"Uh... That's very generous of you," I said carefully. "But why? You don't even know me. Aren't you busy?"
He raised his eyebrows. "Busy? With what?"
"I don't know, man. Exams?"
"Exams? Dude, I'm fourteen."
My jaw dropped. It hadn't occured to me that my competent savior could have been a freshman. But it made sense. Many of the people in our club would have been swimming their whole lives. I felt an irrational moment of humiliation, thinking of the dozens of club members watching me struggle helplessly until a kid had to go rescue me. Then I remember the feeling of his body pressed against mine, and decided I didn't care. I extended my hand.
"Fine. Fuck me up, Coach William."
"Most people call me Will," he said, taking my hand and shaking it.
"Most people call me Malcolm, but you can call me Mal if you want."
"And as for your other question." He gripped my hand tighter and leaned next to my ear. "It's because I love the way you look at me."