Thursday, December 23, 2010

Arms Against A See Of Troubles

I thought of myself today.

No. That sounds odd. I do think of myself. Today I remembered the teenaged me. What I lacked in confidence, I gained in weight. What I lacked in wisdom, I gained in sarcasm.

I was a fat and an obnoxious kid. That's my fact.

I wasn't athletic. I didn't participate in neighborhood pick-up games. Gym class was my purgatory. I paid for my sins while I waited to pass through the school. Most of the time, gym class passed without incident. I wasn't the first chosen to participate in a game; the hoop or the goal or a base or a line became the targeted and my time on the bench gave me periods to catch my breath.

Today I remembered my 9th grade gym teacher. I don't remember if he was kind or cruel throughout the year. It's all just a blurred. I do remember one interaction with him.

My middle school had the best of facilities. We had an indoor pool. We had tennis courts and an archery range and cross country ski trails. The school provided swimming suits for the students. They were small blue speedo suits. There is nothing as ego bruising for a teenage boy as squeezing pudge into a slender sheath. I resembled a twisted balloon party-favor.

One of the innate rites of passage into manhood is the test of a teenager to triumph over a teacher. And I recall my fellow students taunted the gym teacher until he slid into the water from the side of the pool. The game was water polo. There were no second stringed swimmers. Each boy participated. Buoyant I was, yet a swimmer I was not. I bounced on my toes and tried to stay out of the struggling stream of swimmers.

Soon I was in over my head. I was in the deep end. I stood near the gym teacher. I do not remember the course of events; I recall the outcome. I found myself struggling under the weight of him. His feet straddled my neck, his shins dusted my ears, and his soles balanced on my shoulders. My height was dwarfed by the waves. Nearly 6 feet of boy struggled under 9 feet of pool. I don't know why he chose to hold me under the air. But I knew I had to fight to rise. I lashed and splashed my arms and hands and swatted his shins. He stayed erect; I remained submerged. My Father was a policeman; he taught me the rules of the street. I took my hands and flayed through the splash and punched his genitals until he fell off me. I sprung to the surface and bobbled for air. I pulled myself to the side of the pool and wiped the water and the fear from my face. The wet concealed my tears; the chilly quakes concealed my shivers.

I didn't tell my parents. I thought I was weak. I thought it might be a masculine game and I had been initiated. I was embarrassed by my fear. I was humiliated that I felt humiliated. I didn't tell the staff at the school. The thought of prosecution never crossed my mind. I was an innocent boy.

I've rarely considered the incident over the years. He coached my younger brother without incident. I didn't warn my brother; I didn't see his need. I didn't think of the cruelty at the time. I was bullied in school. Each humiliation and each attack were like pointillistic pain pools in a mosaic of misery. The swimming pool was just an incident. It took no precedence.

As I gaze through this passed, I see the gift from the day. I grew in confidence. I had defended myself. I learned I could fight and I could rise.

I remembered the pool today. Today I struggle as I'm weighted. Today I struggle under the wait of diabetes. Today I struggle under the weight of poverty. Today I struggle with stress. And still I swat. And still I splash. And still I fight.

Today I realized we all struggle in the same weigh. Love and hatred have equal weight; they have equal wait. One must wait for them or wait through them. Men might be weighted with addictions and desires or pride and passions. Parents are weighted with responsibilities. Families are weighted with concern and care or submerged by selfishness and apathy. Relationships can be weighted with jealousy or deceit.

Humanity is weighted with the obligations of its brethren.

Communicants are weighted with responsibility of the Catechism.

And mankind must struggle and swat and splash until our lungs fill with the breath and our palms whisk the wet from our eyes.

I worry my arms can't withstand the waves, yet I have the Faith to know that I'll rise.

I'll rise.