As I watched the girls from a distance, fearless as they navigated the rocks and the wooden bridges, the flights of stairs that led to the diving boards which in turn led to the sea, I felt inspired, swirls of pride or of envy in my body.
Seeing their feet dangle from the ends of planks 16ft in the air made my heart leap and I wondered if their hearts were leaping too. I wondered if they were thinking about how brave they were right then.
The colour of the water was like nothing I’d seen before, really, except in photographs or paintings. Deep greens and teals mingled and swished around turquoise and minty pastels that made no sense.
At least ten times a day I wish that my eyes were cameras. That I could retain snaps of colour, the pink spills and the blue, blue leaks I’d seen, just exactly as I’d seen them and keep them for later.
Back when I was tenacious and thought everything was possible and that I could do anything, I presumed I could swim. I presumed I was born that way. I presumed I was born a swimmer. That everyone was. And so, aged 3, right there on the terrace of The Don Juan Hotel, the second my sisters turned their backs and their attentions to flicking our beach towels onto sun loungers, I took my chance and an absurdly animated leap straight into the pool.
I mimicked the movements I’d seen adults make that meant swimming. Arms, legs, arms, legs, arms. But, as I gasped and glugged at the chlorinated water, the back of my throat and the insides of my nostrils stinging, I sank down and sprang up then down again. This isn’t swimming. This isn’t swimming. This isn’t swimming. With shins grazed and knees bumped and bruised on the mosaic pool tile, parts of me, most likely the parts that squeezed hardest into my sister’s wet skin post-rescue, concluded that in water was not where I was supposed to be.
I’ve never been a strong swimmer. I was the last of the kids to remove my water wings. I was also the last of the kids to put them on.
I climb the stairs of the first diving tower, each step momentous. Different mes are questioning one another. One is wondering whether I ought to turn back, another is thinking that maybe I’ve seen enough. But another one, the new one, the brave one, reckons that any resulting drowning, injury or other climbing related emergency could surely only make for a good story.