I CAN’T SWIM, EITHER: CONFESSION EDITION

by Lisa

In my dreams, I can fly.  Okay, maybe “fly” isn’t quite it, but I don’t know what to call the act of propelling my body through air with effort and intent.

If I happen to fall, or jump, my hands can catch the atmosphere.  I don’t land, then, but rather bounce about, suspended by I-don’t-know-what for as long as my arms keep moving.  When the flying is happening, it feels as natural as walking, more natural than moving through water.  Swimming, real swimming, is torture.

Here’s the problem: this dream comes to me often, so I forget that I can’t really fly.  Once, I fell far, far across a ravine on an unfamiliar stretch of hiking trail, and I took so long to land that I had time to think, “Goodness, I’ll come out fine from this, since I just need to flap my arms a little…”.  Flapping happened, my hiking friends expected broken bones or a loose screw for trying to swim to the other side of the air-ravine, and I landed softly on a deep layer of spring-musty leaves.  Nothing broke, I hadn’t lost my mind, but I was wrong about the flying in real life once again.

Explaining my behavior was a little easier than I’d expected.  My companions had all recently read some good advice, in honor of our short-lived book club, including, “Carry a Towel”, “Don’t Panic”, and “42.”  In that same helpful Guide is advice on flying, that goes something like, “Forget to Land.”

My advice about book clubs? Collective participation is great and all, but things move along much better when the six of you don’t share one copy of the book of the month.  The Hitchhikers’ Guide was missing pages by the time the last person read it, making group discussions confusing.  If you must share a paperback, I recommend Breakfast of Champions.  A lost page or twenty doesn’t cause much confusion amidst the intentional blurring of reality, and sometimes you find a dropped page years later and get to keep it.  The beaver page is a prize.

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So, if we’re ever on a trampoline together, and I look frustrated, you know my secret.  For just a moment, some primal part of my brain expects to take off from those first few jumps, buoyant, to boost myself into the trees with my perfectly unremarkable ability to grab air and gain space between the ground and my body.

It never works, but I keep flapping, just in case.

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