Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Swimming

St. John’s was just over the border in Ontario, but a lifetime away. We waited, my parents and I, with a bunch of kids with rucksacks and duffels, for permission to get aboard. It was a short plane ride into another world. Far away. At the time I worried it might be too far from everything I had known.
It felt like we were being chased to the edge. There was a war on and things were getting worse every day. It was getting darker and dirtier. People were frightened. I knew my mother worried about me going so far from home, but I knew she was already worried. I could see them on the edges—men with guns and big face masks, the kind that protects from gas, and we knew that it would be safer on the other side.
It was. When I arrived I was one of many coming to St. John’s, to study and to live. It was bright and the air was fresh. Just over the border, but life was thriving. The other kids at the school were robust and friendly. I got involved right away in a hospitality club. Classes hadn’t started yet, so we had lots of time to discuss club protocols. How should tables be set? Should there be candles and flowers? Would the club director decide everything, or should we get to choose for ourselves? No one was surprised when I voted for the latter. I was surprised though when everyone else did too. We posted our notes on a high green chalkboard to keep track of everything.

The kids at St. Johns loved to swim. And living there, so did I. I swam well and quickly. There was a massive pool at the school. It seemed to go on forever, with long staircases leading down to various levels. Kids swam in teams and raced against one another. Everyone had fun. I felt that I was one of them, fitting in easily with my tight swim cap and muscled shoulders. We all headed together to the changing room, towels around our waists. Classes were about to begin.

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