I never realized how triggering public pools are until my son and partner started going to the pool on a weekly basis. I realized it has been a long long time since I have been in a public pool, and that I probably have been avoiding them subconsciously.
When I was 10 or 11 years old (time gets fuzzy in my childhood) my dad used to take me to an indoor public pool every Sunday after church. I used to love swimming. I never felt more excited than when I was in the water. I remember the positive feelings it gave me. The way I imagined myself as a mermaid, graceful underneath the liquid. I was very well developed for my age. I had already grown breasts and my body was chubby–that in-between stage before all of the hormones leveled out and my height caught up. I hated being in a bathing suit because my dad would often comment about my body, but I loved swimming. I felt lightweight and not as awkward as I felt on land.
Every Sunday we swam at the pool. Usually, my dad kept to himself and swam in the lap pool while I played in the swallow end. Sometimes, though, he would tell me to go over to the deep end so I could practice diving.
I hated diving. I hated how my dad was so insistent that I learned how to do it. I was always afraid of hitting my head on the bottom of the water. I hated how he pressured me and bullied me into doing it. I hated that I had not other choice.
Then something happened during one of our Sundays at the pool. We were swimming as usual, and my dad was doing his usual thing–insisting that I dive–he swam close to me, telling me again and again to do it. I can’t remember everything that happened after that–as if I had blocked it out-but I think I got upset because he wanted me to dive into the pool and I didn’t want to. I got frustrated and started to cry- then I remember a woman in the pool yelling at him. She called him a “son of a bitch” and he ordered me to get out of the pool. I obeyed, but nervously took too long in the dressing room as my father called me to hurry up so we could leave.
Then he grabbed my hand and we rushed passed the front desk, while the clerk shouted, demanded that we stay. For my dad, this kind of situation wasn’t uncommon; he often rubbed people the wrong way, but I felt uneasy as the day went on. I felt like I had done something wrong. I knew something had happened, but I didn’t know what it was.
Late that night, long after I had been asleep, I was awoken at my father’s house by a police officer. They led me away and questioned me about what had happened that day at the pool. They said the it had been reported that my father had molested me. At the time, and to this day I have no recollection of anything like that happening, but I can’t remember a lot from my childhood. My dad was not a reliable narrator, and I often felt like my reality was not “real” when I was with him because he observed things so differently. I do know that at the time I was very clear that I did not experience that, and the police officers badgered me for hours to admit what had happened. Like my dad bullying me into diving into the pool all those times.
Every time we have gone to the pool this month I have felt uneasy. Scared to swim. To move in the water. Too scared of what others see. Whether they will observe something about me I don’t. I feel sick when the swampy smell hits my nostrils.
Maybe this is the reason why.