(Note that the author was 16 years old when he wrote this story.)
The scene for which I was raised cannot be summed up in terms of geographical boundaries, major landmarks, or weather conditions. Rather, it's how these factors instill the first portrait of childhood: memories of water gun fights, bicycle rides, and laughing till your voice gave out. Stuttgart was a small town, dotted with scanty grocery stores, rusted plows, and old warehouses. From their tops, you could see miles on out; the terrain was as flat as a sheet. The only real nuisance was the scorching summer heat; but like all childhood woes, there was always a resolve: the sanctuary of the neighborhood swimming pool, a welcoming smell of chlorine and warm spit.
I was not the biggest or the toughest kid on the block but I had something no other kids had: a set of orange floatation devices cupped around my chubby little hands. With it, I couldn't walk three steps without falling on my knees. That didn't stop me. You see, I had my own section by the parking lot away from the pig pool where the bigger kids played. From a distance, it was not bigger than sandbox. The only difference was that one was filled with sand the other filled with water. Statistics was no deterrent to a young man's pride. My God, I was the master of that little pool. At times, I would perform underwater acrobatics, diving deep into the ocean floor. Other times, I was young Marco Polo navigating the Pacific Ocean. Making the engine sound, I would doodle around the pool's circumference till my back gave out. I was satisfied in my little pool; but one day, all that was about to change.
The sun shined a little brighter that summer afternoon, across the flat plains, onto the marooned farm machinery which I dared to climb when I was a child. With the coming of the scorching sun, the silence of our sequestered district was broken by hoarse shouts and splashing water. What compelled me to wander from those familiar fences of my little tub was a journey all young men have to make, knowing one day I had to leave my little town and make a future for myself.
I was gazing into the ocean and cast my eyes back to my little pool. The other kids' splashing ruffled the calm water; I knew I had to take this step. I had gone too far to go back. I could see my own reflection; but somehow, he was a stranger to me. He told me to jump but I was not sure. The solid concrete was so different from what I was accustomed to. Ridiculously, I wiggled from side to side to put courage back into my little heart. Now I have to conquer this just like I did as I was doing; I was a torpedo, unstoppable. But I didn't know how deep the water was or if I could stay afloat. One thing was for sure, I knew I had to dive in with a big splash if the other kids would notice me. "Get off me you looser," I tried to wrestle one of the orange float free from my arms. Finally, it came off. The second one was much easier.
Maybe it was fear that held me back when I inched toward the water. It, like those stubborn floats, are all in the same gang. 'Don't think too hard now,' I reassured myself. All I had to do was close my eyes and jump. Before I could say two, I convinced my legs to uncoil. All I heard was the sound of water rushing into my ears. I was caught in the suffocating jaws of the chlorinated water, buoying between life and death. Yet, all I wanted to do was to stretch out my hands and wave them back and forth. I did it; I was just like the bigger kids. A smile cracked across my little face and I wished my mom was here to see me. Was I breathing, drowning, those details weren't important. What was important was how I felt. For those brief moments, I felt like a king. Nothing could stop me. Nothing could oust me from my high pedestal.
From the background I heard an old lady screaming. I felt a pair of strange hands seizing my wrist. Suddenly, my feet left water. I felt someone had hollowed out my tiny heart. I wanted to cry. Trying to hold back the tears, I knew big boys didn't cry. She was yelling something, but I didn't hear want she was saying.
One day, I left that southern town; those distant images of rusted tractors desire me to climb them once more. I still recall the kids shouting and how their yelps dissipated into the vastness of rice fields. Then, I remember those tight hands that rescued me from the depth. I never thanked the old lady for saving my life nor could I convince myself to do so.