Immersion Training:

During the waning days of summer camp, we were given an opportunity to swim in the camp’s large, shallow pool. The half- Olympic pool was nowhere more than three feet deep, but it was a welcomed respite from the hot southern California sun. I climbed into the pool and sank to the floor, letting the water embrace me in it’s cool arms until my need for oxygen forced me back to the surface. Then I rested on my back, with an arm crossed over my eyes to block the light, I floated out toward the middle of the pool and away from the uproarious play going on nearer the edge. The water in my ears drowned out the noise, and for the first time since I had been at camp, I felt alone and at peace. I could feel the stress of the past two weeks slowly seeping from my muscles, and for a moment I was content. There were two lifeguards, and a random collection of counselors and children, so I felt confident that the boys who had so relentlessly tormented me wouldn’t dare attack me in this place. Almost as the thought had drifted through my mind though, a hand grabbed hold of my ankle and yanked me back to the present reality. Immediately, two more pairs of hands grabbed onto my arms and shoulders. Just as I took a deep breath so as to call for help, the boys pushed my head under the water. For a brief moment, the calm blue of the pool lulled me into a false sense of serenity. Certainly, the trio of bullies would only hold me under for a moment before letting me up so that I could hear their taunting laughter. I methodically tested their collective hold on me, but with four hands on my shoulders, and one each on my left arm and head, it was impossible for me to do much but thrash my right arm around. Any hope of striking the thugs was rendered impotent by the pressure of the water. I reached up to wave for help, but my fingers barely traced the surface above. Seconds went by, until it felt as if I had been underwater for a noticeably long time. Surely someone would be coming to my rescue soon… and more seconds drifted by, until my body involuntarily started trying to gasp for breath. Clenching my jaw tight, I knew that if I swallowed any water there would be no hope of recovery. Those boys were mean, but they were not liars. They were going to kill me. Once I understood that, my mind went immediately into a mode of thought I can scarcely describe. I was no longer struggling to escape, or to breathe, or even to live. I was going to destroy them as utterly as possible. Eyes opening wide, I remember how lazily the shorts of the boy in front of me drifted in the shifting water. A dark blue against a sea of lighter shades. With my right hand, which they had still failed to restrain, I reached up the leg of his shorts and grabbed hold of his testicles. With all of my strength, I yanked down on the sensitive gonads. With not enough oxygen left for a primal scream, I continued pulling down until I felt his hands release. Shortly the other hands let go of me as well. As I surfaced, I still had hold of the boy’s balls. The first sound I heard was his screaming in agony. Unable to muster the strength to swim, I waded my way to the edge of the pool, under the shadow of the lifeguard tower. Gasping for air and gagging as I lay on the concrete, my vision dimming, voices seemed so far away. The boys were angrily shouting threats, their voices steadily closing in on my new position. Shakily, I climbed to my knees, which wobbled unsteadily in my attempt to stand. Above me, the lifeguard shouted down “That’s it! Get out of the pool!” Certain that he had seen me being attacked, I turned and pointed to the bullies “They were trying to drown me.” I gasped. In a voice like ice, the adult said “I saw what happened. No one touched you. Now leave the pool area before I have to call your counselor.” For a split second, I stared up at him, my mouth hanging open in shock. “Go!” the lifeguard snapped at me, his finger pointing to the gate. I glanced back over at the boys who, now emboldened were closing in on me. The uninjured two hopped out of the pool, but I turned on my heels and ran as fast as I could down to the nurse’s office. Sitting alone on a plastic chair, I sobbed uncontrollably. No one ever asked me what had happened, but for the last few days of camp, I never for a moment left the immediate vicinity of the adults, the more of them I could see, the better. Laying in bed that night, I could still smell the chlorine water in my nostrils.