Record 26: Bakersfield, Friday, July 5th, 2013. Day.
On Fridays this summer we go to the Aquatic Center where I do activities in the pool. Today is a Friday and so today I am having my swimming lesson while my mom and Francis eat hot dogs and drink diet soda at the barbecues. They are wearing their swimsuits but they don’t get in the pool very often, and it makes me wonder why I have to be the family swimmer.
Right now I’m on my stomach with my arms stretched out in front of me, holding on to my Instructor’s wrists. I’m kicking as fast and hard as I can and holding my chin above the water so I can breathe.
“Kick faster Jared.” The Instructor, a lonely middle-aged lady called Terry tells me.
“But I’m not getting anywhere.” I reply.
“Keep your legs straight. Stop bending them.”
“Try harder. I shouldn’t have to tell you this.” The Instructor tells me, and sighs.
I shouldn’t have to be taking swim lessons, I think. For fuck’s sake. I’m 15. And this pool isn’t deep anyway. I could just stand up.
So I do.
Terry the Instructor’s face looks mushed and angry.
“Why are you standing?” She asks me, and I want to splash her.
I hold my hands over my head.
“I’m out of breath, Terry.” I say.
“You’re supposed to call me Instructor.”
But I’m not. I’ve kicked enough water today. Almost an hour’s worth. And my mom and Francis get to have lunch. They haven’t kicked any water.
“Your parents…” Terry the Instructor starts to say, but I interrupt.
“Francis isn’t my parent.”
“He’s a legal guardian.”
“Francis isn’t my parent.”
I splash water in Terry the Instructor’s face.
“Jared!” She yells, and I want to laugh. But instead I don’t.
“You need to focus if you want to get better.”
I know she’s talking about my swimming – she wants me to get better at swimming. But there’s more. There’s always been more since the divorce. More classes, more games, more friends. More activities.
“Now lay on your stomach and give me your hands.” Terry the Instructor says.
I ignore her and see my mom and Francis sit down on some lawn chairs under a striped umbrella. Eating hot dogs. Drinking diet soda. Laughing.
Francis, in his LIFE IS GOOD shirt and Hurley board shorts, wraps his arm around my mom and kisses her lips while she chews. My mom laughs and laughs.
“Jared. Lay on your stomach.”
“The hour’s up.” I say.
“No it’s not. There’s still…” Terry the Instructor looks at her waterproof watch. “…5 minutes. You have 5 more minutes of kicking left.”
“I’m tired of kicking. Let’s call it a day. Thanks.” I say and hop onto the deck.
I ignore and round the pool, stopping before my mom and Francis at their lawn chairs. They are making out.
“My lesson’s over.” I say.
Quickly, my mom tears her face away from Francis’ lips. She looks at her iPhone.
“Honey, you still have 3 minutes left. Why don’t you go get back in the pool?”
Francis glares at me, but he’s smiling. This is the look I hate.
“Ah he doesn’t have to keep swimming if he doesn’t want to.” Francis says, winking at me. “Isn’t that right, sport?”
“Yeah. But I hate sports.”
Francis laughs, so my mom does too.
“I know pal.” Francis gestures for me to sit down. “Pull up a seat. Your mom and I were just talking about signing you up for a little league.”
I think he means baseball. He never listens to me.
“Sit down honey.” My mom says, almost ordering.
“I would rather stand. On my own.” I say.
Terry the Instructor marches to my mom. She looks mad.
“It’s $150 today.” She tells my mom and holds out her hand. Francis pays her $200.
“Keep the change.” He says.
“You’re the best Francis.” And she leaves, avoiding eye contact with me.
My mom keeps staring at me. Her eyes are heavy in the sun, and I can tell she’s getting upset.
“It’s okay. He can stand.” Francis says to my mom. “Look pal…” He starts to say, and I want to zone out. Or punch his teeth. But instead I listen.
“…you know you’ve gotta keep busy. You know? That’s what the doctor ordered. Keeping busy.”
Francis clasps his hands together behind his neck. Satisfied.
“Think you can be a champ and keep busy for us, pal?”
I want to punch everything in the goddamn fucking face.
“Yeah Jared.” My mom says to me. She holds my hand and smiles. “Think you can be a champ?”
My dad never calls me champ. My dad never calls me pal or sport or anything dumb. He never even talks to me.
“Did you hear your mother, champ?” Francis asks.
My dad never asks me questions. He never makes me swim or kick water. I wish I was with him right now. I wish he never found my mom and Francis having sex in the garage. I wish I didn’t have to see him cry.
“Jared? Are your ears broken, pal?” Francis asks.
My face is probably red now. I’m upset and mad. My mom notices.
“It’s okay honey.” She says to me, then looks at Francis. “It’s okay.”
Francis tosses up his hands like he’s being held at gun point.
“Fine.” He says.
He’s mad at me. My mom tries to pull his face close for a kiss, but he doesn’t budge, so I reach for the leg of Francis’ lawn chair and drag him into the pool. He flails his arms and doggy-paddles to the steps.
“You know I can’t swim Jared!” He shouts.
“Try harder.” I say.