1, 2 . . . 3, 4

I had just enough time to change out of my school uniform and into my swimsuit, grab a towel, and throw together something for dinner. On only 6 hours of sleep, I knew it was going to be a challenge to stay focused for two shifts; the 4:30 – 6:30 family swim and the 7:00 – 9:00 varsity practice. I was banking hours that month, trying to pick up as many extra shifts as possible, saving money to buy Billy Joel tickets being released that weekend.

It was a fight to keep my eyes open. The warmth of the pool room, smell of chlorine, repetitive sound of “Marco, Polo . . . Marco, Polo!” and the constant hum of the fans was enough to lull me to sleep. The 4:30 family swim typically wasn’t very busy. Usually the same four or five kids would come to this session. They would swim laps, take a few dives off the diving board, ask me to judge their cannon ball competitions, and have a few friendly races. Regardless of the activity, they never failed to include Alejandro.

Ed told me to keep a close eye on Alejandro. I was never specifically told what Alejandro’s disabilities included, but even at 16 years old, I knew he had many challenges. Alejandro’s speech was hard to understand. He walked with a certain gait and he was socially uncomfortable. But I always looked forward to Alejandro swimming while I was on duty. It brought me such joy to see how comfortable he was in the water. This was his special place. The place where his physical disabilities weren’t obvious. The place where he he was included with his peers. The place where he was not so different.

During my Lifeguard & Water Safety class, I learned to continuously scan the pool, looking at all four quadrants; rotating between the four so that all areas of the pool were covered. I always kept a closer eye on Alejandro; I made certain of that. I scanned the first quadrant and two kids were bobbing up and down. The second quadrant was empty. In the third quadrant, two kids were searching for hidden toys. 1, 2 . . . 3, 4. The fourth quadrant was empty.

1, 2 . . . 3, 4. I repeated the cycle accounting for swimmers in each quadrant.

1, 2 . . . 3, 4.

1, 2 . . . 3, 4.

5?! I stood up from my chair.

1, 2 . . . 3, 4. My heart began to race.

5 at the bottom.

I blew my whistle and dove into the pool.

With all my might I pull 5 to the surface. Just a few months earlier, in this very pool, I had practiced the safety moves.

This victim was so heavy. This victim was lifeless.

I heaved him up and over the pool edge. “Call 911. Get help.”

I yanked his mask off his face and tossed it aside. I put my ear next to his mouth, while looking at his chest.

I heard nothing, felt nothing, saw . . . nothing.

I grabbed his wrist; so heavy, so cold. I felt nothing. I moved my fingers slightly lower.

Still . . . nothing.

I was going to throw up. This is not how I practiced. Where is everyone? I’m stuck. I don’t know what to do next. I need someone to coach me.

I take a breath and remember; find the nipple line and go to the center of the chest. One hand on top of the other and push; push two inches, no more.

Push, push . . . push, push! Push, push . . . push, push! Push, push . . . push, push!

Again, I put my ear next to his mouth, looking at his chest.

I heard nothing, felt nothing, saw . . . nothing.

I tilt his head back and lift his chin. I pinch his nose. Where is help?!! Where is help?!! I take a breath, cover his mouth with my mouth and give two steady breaths. Move chest MOVE!

Two more breaths . . . nothing.

I remember the center of his chest and repeat . . .

Push, push . . . push, push! Push, push . . . push, push! Push, push . . . push, push!

With each push I notice droplets falling. Perhaps they are from my hair or are they from my eyes. Where is help?! Where is help?!

He starts to cough and I slide my body to his side using it as leverage to roll him onto his side. I can hear my own pulse thumping and whooshing following that same steady beat.

Help arrives and I am pushed aside.

I never worked that second shift. I tried to visit Alejandro at the hospital, but his parents wouldn’t have me.

I never bought the tickets for that Billy Joel concert; instead I attended a funeral for a friend.

Published by georgiaaustin1

Wife, Mother, Dog Lover, Elementary Assistant Principal excited to write

6 thoughts on “1, 2 . . . 3, 4

  1. Oh my. This was such a gripping, scary story. You should be proud you were such a diligent lifeguard that day. That must have been a life-changing experience.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I could not read fast enough to find out what happened. Your pacing of the sentences and the language really helped. Then the last line, I went to the funeral of a friend, had me wondering. Alejandro? No he was Ok. Someone else? A whole other story foreshadowed in that last sentence.

    Liked by 1 person

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