Friday, April 04, 2014

Water Baby

After years of talking endlessly about it, Saffy has finally decided that it’s time she really learnt how to swim.
            Of course, the motivation for wanting to do so has less to do with any desire for self-improvement and more to do with eliminating yet another competitive edge that Amanda has over her.
            “Look at her,” Saffy once said as we lay poolside and watched Amanda glide through the water. Jealousy leaked from every pore. “She’s like a freaking dolphin! I mean, really, she’s like a piece of Styrofoam!”
            Which was a crude way of putting it, but watching Amanda swim, you kind of got the idea. She seemed to put in no effort at all as she casually drifted up and down the pool.
            When Saffy swam, she thrashed violently like a malfunctioning turbo jet and a quarter of a way down the pool, she would stop and cling to the side of the pool and announce she was exhausted.
            “I just can’t seem to stay afloat,” she would complain. “My legs keep sinking! I might as well be walking after a while!”
            “That’s because you’re probably heavy boned,” Amanda said serenely as she stretched out long limbs on the sun lounge.
            The comment haunted Saffy. Like many women, she was already burdened with the conviction that, despite all mirrored evidence to the contrary, she was actually twice her size. And now, on top of that imaginary extra weight, she was also heavy boned? How did that happen?
            Leave it to Sharyn to put it all into perspective.
            “Aiyoh,” she moaned. “Why you like this? Amanda is bone doctor, is it? Where got such thing, one?”
            “It’s called bone density, Sharyn! I looked it up!” Saffy said stubbornly as she speared a piece of cucumber from their shared plate of rojak.
            “Yah, but heavier only a little bit, lah! How can you sink more than another person?”
            “Then how is it that Amanda can swim like a tuna for length after length while I can barely get to the middle of the pool before I drop to the bottom like the Titanic? You tell me that!”
            “Wah, you sure you go to university or not? If you sink, is not because Amanda’s bones are lighter, but because you eat too much rojak!” Saffy’s fork hesitated at the entrance of her open mouth. Encouraged, Sharyn went on. “Amanda neh-ber eat rojak, right? Only carrot stick. Correct, or not?”
            Saffy put her fork down.
            “And then, hor,” Sharyn pressed on, “your stroke technique is probably salah! It’s like making char kway teow. If you any how fry fry, sure cannot make it, one! Must have technique.”
            Saffy looked doubtful. “You think?”
            “Sure confirm, one! You go find a teacher and learn to swim properly!”
            Which is how later that night, Saffy found herself scouring the internet for a swimming instructor for adults while watching YouTube clips of how to swim. When I passed by her room, I found her standing in front of her laptop, her arms going through the motions of a freestyle as she copied the instructor on the video clip.
            “Char kway teow! Char kway teow!” she muttered as her arms wind-milled through the air.
            Much against my better judgment, I asked, “What are you doing?”
            “Oh, it’s you.” Saffy straightened up. “One of the tips is that you have to keep your timing when you breathe and I think that’s been my main problem. So I’m saying ‘char kway teow’ to help me keep time. I think the length of time it takes me to say it is the same amount of time it takes me to rotate my head to breathe and then breathe out in the water!”
            “Is it working?”
            “I'm not sure, but it’s sure making me hungry!”
            Saffy spent the rest of the night shortlisting instructors, her principal criteria being that they be tall and gorgeous.
            “But that doesn’t mean they’re going to be any good!” I protested.
            Saffy was serenely unruffled. “I know that, but I figured that if it all doesn’t work, I will at least have a potential boyfriend as a Plan B to Bradley.”
            This morning, Saffy had her first lesson. Curious, Amanda took out her binoculars and peered down at the swimming pool from our lounge room.
            “He’s got his back turned to me, but he looks hot!” she murmured.
            “Yes, but how is Saffy doing?” I asked.

            “She seems to be doing well. At the very least, she’s floating. But the oddest thing is that every time she turns her head to breathe, I can see her lips moving. It’s like she’s saying something!”

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