each hour is a room of shame and I am
swimming, swimming, holding my head up…
- Sharon Olds, “Known to Be Left”
I saved a woman from drowning at the hotel pool in Portland. It was a curious event. A lot of people were swimming, playing, hanging out and no one else seemed to notice the woman except her young daughter who was wading nearby, looking terrified. No splashing, vertical, unable to keep her mouth above the waterline. I jumped in and managed to eventually get us both to the pool’s edge like we were Cambodians fleeing the Khmer Rouge killing fields. She looked at my eyes and made a small noise like a hamster in a door jam. The woman spoke no English. She nodded thanks and held to the wall a few more minutes while I watched her with chlorine concern. Nobody there took any notice. The woman swam very slowly and with considerable difficulty back to the shallow end. I drifted along behind her like a tugboat to make sure she arrived safely (considering she could barely swim). Once able to stand in the water, she rejoined her husband at the shallow end and avoided looking in my direction until she left with her family an hour later. A simple glance of embarrassed grace.
Michael Hemmingson's blog is http://mhemmingson.wordpress.com.