Forgetting how to swim is a bit like forgetting how to breathe, or eat or open your eyes or pull your finger away from a naked flame. It just shouldn't happen. So I suppose I was disappointed with myself, you could've said that anyway. It wasn't even if I had a history, long or short, of forgetting. In fact I prided myself on remembering things, mostly times, dates and trivia pretty well. I would admit to being poor a remembering peoples' names. I'm not sure that was really about memory or capability, it was more that I didn't really care. If I don't care about you (which is likely given your place in the billions of other people in the world) then it's possible that I just won't recall your name or anything special about you if we ever meet. So today I forgot to swim.
It wasn't the tragedy it might have been, that was because I was sitting on a bus which, conveniently was travelling on dry land apart from a few puddles. I survived the moment, the only harm I came to was that I suffered a nasty shock. Part of the shock was the slow realisation that perhaps I was not the most pleasant or important person the world. There may be others ahead of me. It was a tough blow in the solar plexus and I rolled around the bust seat in agony. The other passengers averted their eyes apart from an older lady sitting still, staring ahead stuck in an existential crisis about the necessity of shopping for things that are not necessities. I rolled and groaned and remained soundly ignored until my stop came. Then I stood up clutching the bits of newspaper I'd torn in my moment of agony and frenzy, I struggled down the different levels of the bus floor and alighted without even looking back. Public transport sucks.
Once I was back on dry land I forgot the whole swimming crisis and walked around the park. First clockwise, then anti-clockwise and then a bit of both. I'm sure I passed myself or even surpassed myself but I was distracted by a strangely articulate sports commentary playing in my personal head phones. My personal head then said it caught a glimpse of my other selves walking around the park but the conversation was lost in the rowdy back-chat of a Scottish cricket crowd and a jaunty commercial for bargain carpets and soft furnishings that was spinning around in my headphones. I promptly retuned to a chatty free jazz conversation channel and the moment was lost.
The jazz was indeed free, free of melody, rhythm and tune but the conversation (about glossy haired women, bent trumpets, injured lips and life styles) kept me entertained. I knew because by foot was tapping. I was absorbed by the show and by the message. It all seemed so important, so much that I had to tell some body how the language of jazz, the expressions of the soul and the pain of the creative process worked out in this medium was woefully misunderstood by the common man. A bit like Grand Prix racing. I confronted a bored dog walker and gave him the full five minute version. He pulled his dog away from me but nodded a lot, “I'm a big fan of Kathy Kirby and the big band sound,” the dog walker said. The dog however remained silent and I felt that he (the dog) held the balance of power in the relationship. It was one of those magical, insightful moments you just get and then, as is my mantra, forget about completely.
I took the whole incident as a kind of cosmic signal which I understood to be saying, “that part of your life is now over, you must move away, seek a new life and partner and begin again discarding all of your past as it is something more than meaningless”. I began to worry when I heard that line; if it was truly something more than meaningless then it must have been, to some degree meaningful and now I was being guided by my abstract spiritual adviser to lose something more than meaningless. Perhaps I had misheard or misunderstood, perhaps it was “nothing more than meaningless”. Then I though about the spectrum upon which meaningless stood and wondered, as any sane person might, which side of meaningless was more meaningful and which side of meaningless was less meaningful and quite where, in relation to these various points was I currently situated? I trudged home bearing this heavy weight of dilemma and as I turned the key in the door promptly forgot about it. I was distracted by a letter that lay on the mat under the letterbox and a strange smell. It was addressed to some one who shared my name so I opened it up. The title was a little disturbing, it read:
“The death of my team mates. Dear sir or madam, thanks to you all the pigeons on the old grey oak tree have died apart from me and I'm feeling none too clever. Our community has been devastated and my pigeon soccer team (corn division 2a) is no more. I blame you and your mean spirited feeding regime and that kid down the street with the rusty air rifle. I go to my grave an unhappy bird but I must get this this final message out to you from my tiny beating heart and heaving chest. You are a bad neighbour. Thank you and cuckoo. Bob Pigeon.”
(I ignored the smell by the way). It was the first letter I'd every received from a pigeon and I was quite impressed by the clarity of the message and the style of writing. I sat down with a cup of tea (which had been there since yesterday or so I thought perhaps that was the source of the smell, probably not) and I also thought a little more about the letter. Perhaps it was all a scam, not written by the pigeon but by a person. Perhaps by a person who for some reason thought of him or herself as a pigeon and then wrote letters of complaint to neighbours or just random members of the public. Maybe it was a joke but once again I had to confess I knew too few jokers. None whatsoever. Maybe it was just a joke. At that point an epiphany occurred; “Just” suddenly seemed a new and important word to me as it allowed a margin of doubt or uncertainty into my rambling, I resolved to use it more often, just a few times anyway. I didn't want to get into a habit. Not just yet. Sleep and some inner stillness was whispering to me and so the next few hours became no more than a pleasant blur. I would deal with the pigeons another time.
The next morning was a typical warm bright Mediterranean day so I took a stroll down to the beach. The water was a a clear crystal blue, a blue that promised a blue heaven and a kindly warmth and life and relaxation. I threw down my T shirt and sandals onto the sand and walked in, up to my waist, up to my chest, up to my neck and onwards. Then I remembered I'd forgotten how to swim. Then I remembered that this wasn't Marbella in Spain it was Dunbar in Scotland. Then I forgot everything.