The young boy stood at the edge of the empty swimming pool. Clutching a small black umbrella to protect him from the light rain, the young boy stared into the depths of the water. The same sullen face, red and puffy blue eyes stared back at him. Tears trickled down his face and he angrily ran a hand through his combed hair, causing it to stick up in places.
“George, your hair never stays flat does it” his mother used to say. But today, the day of her funeral, it did. George bit his lip and put the memory away, another forced it’s way into his mind.
“Go on then, Jump!” a small crowd of boys stood beside him, egging him on to dive into the pool. George shook his head, but another boy stepped forwards. “What’s the matter? You afraid of water?” The boys sniggered. “I can help you with that” said the boy as he proceeded towards George with his hand outstretched. Just before he could be pushed, George’s mother called. The boy snickered and ran off with his friends, leaving a blushing George at the poolside with his mother.
“What was that all about?” asked his mother. George shrugged and took his mother’s hand.
“Let’s just go” The next day, George was called into the school counselors office. He was a middle-aged man, balding and plump, who had the habit of biting his fingernails when not speaking.
“George, your mother and teacher tell me you’ve been having trouble with some other boys…and your not doing anything about it.” George shrunk in his chair and looked out the window. “George…I can help you, but you need to tell me. When did it start?” Hesitantly, George looked the man in the eyes, his voice barely audible.
“Swimming lessons” The counselor nodded his head, writing this down on a notepad.
“Are you afraid of water, George?” he asked calmly. George blushed and nodded slowly. “That’s nothing to be ashamed of George, we all have fears” George only nodded again. “But, the thing with most fears, is that they can be overcome.” At this, George looked seriously at the man.
“How?” The counselor smiled, placing the notepad on the table.
“By confronting them of course” The meeting with the counselor did not last much longer after that. George lay on his bed, the sound of the swimming pool could be heard from outside, he lived next door to it. Every day he would hear children laughing and screaming as they dove into the water with such courage and confidence. Eventually, he closed the window and pulled the blinds down for good. His mother must have seen him doing this because she gently brushed his face and smiled.
“If you want George, I can teach you to swim…I wouldn’t let you drown I promise” George shook his head.
“But you’re my mom, It would only make it worse!” George’s mother held him close, stroking the back of his head, whispering into his ear.
“Do I always make it worse?” George didn’t know how to respond, so he pulled away and climbed into bed. A few hours later, he heard his father’s crying.
And now he stood at the edge of the empty pool on a rainy day. Holding his mother’s umbrella as he stared into the cool water. The wind picked up suddenly, wrenching the umbrella from his hand. To his horror, the umbrella landed in the middle of the pool. He couldn’t call for help; they were all inside the house, comforting his father. George removed his soaked suit jacket and black dress shoes and paused for a moment. Screwing his eyes shut, he dove into the water. Once underneath the surface, George opened his eyes. Everything looked so pleasant! The water wasn’t even that cold. For a few seconds, George forgot he didn’t know how to swim, and soon his lungs gave in to his reflexes, and drew in a great breath.