I'm not Michael Phelps, or Cullen Jones and definitely not that dude-bro who did that reality show, but I'm a decent swimmer.
My mom taught my little brother, sister and I how to swim when we were kids. I took to the water fast and never looked back. I'm glad she taught us so early.
I had just finished practicing my 100 meter butterfly. I was still pushing 1:30, which is pathetic but not bad for a black kid who recently took up swimming competitively, at least I think.
Anyway, I was just starting to wind down, bobbing in the cool water. I took my swim cap off and allowed the slight breeze in the pool to hit my soggy short curls.
I had finally caught my breath when I realized I had lost track of time, and another gym class was making their way in. The pats of flip flops and the slaps of bare feet echoed off the walls.
I also heard the squeak of one pair of sneakers.
I saw the purple and white Osiris high tops with teal laces first. Followed by distressed light denim jeans that were cuffed to show just enough dark brown ankle.
They hugged his thighs with the rips in his jeans showing just a hint of toned muscle that flexed as he walked with his friends to the risers facing the pool.
It was Jason, a kid who, for a while now, had piqued my curiosity. Jason was definitely himself, almost to a fault. He was stylish and confident, bordering on arrogance.
He was out and proud and not concerned with getting a seat at the "cool table.
" Instead, he made his own table, and only had seats for the girls he deemed pretty and cool enough to be his audience. They were his own bad girls club.
Today Jason and his angels were sitting swim class out. It was clear to me that they weren't just on the risers because they were worried about getting their hair wet.
I waded to the edge of the pool, pulled myself over the edge and got up on my feet. I sauntered towards the bleachers and Jason's gaggle.
I could feel myself smirking because I couldn't hide my amusement at his attempts to be "cool" by skipping swim class.
"So Jason, what's up with sitting out swim class, you afraid you'll your makeup?" I said with a wink.
I ran my fingers through my hair shaking a few droplets of water that were dripping down on my forehead.
He rolled his eyes and my smirk grew. "Lucas, you're not in this class and it's none of your business why I am sitting out."
"You're right." I said. "But now that I think about it, I've never seen you get in the water past just dipping your feet. Do you even know how to swim?"
"Whatever." Jason said as he dismissed me and started looking at his phone.
"I give lessons." I said as I made my way to the locker room.
I'm sure I irritated Jason, but I couldn't help myself. He didn't seem to let many guys get under his skin, but it was different with the two of us.
The following week, it was the same scene. I stayed around after practice to see Jason and his squad come in and ride the bench.
This time he had dark denim overalls on top of a maroon cutoff t-shirt. Through the sides you could see a slightly toned tummy with just a wisp of hair. Not that I was really paying attention.
Anyway, I made my way past Jason and the girls and let him know the invitation for swim lessons was still open. "Unless you are afraid of a little water.
" I said dryly as I continued into the locker room.
I was showering off the chlorine when I started thinking about Jason's bare skin again. How the maroon in the t-shirt played with the red undertones in his deep brown complexion.
I felt myself get excited and I rushed to rinse off, towel down and head to my next class.
Fast forward to that Friday. I still wanted to tighten up my stroke and maybe shave a few tenths of a second off my time.
After my last class I made my way to the locker room, undressed and slipped into my blue jammer swimsuit. I made my way out to the edge of the pool and was stretching before I dove in.
That's when I heard the slow plod of flip flops come from the direction of the locker room.
I tightened up and paused and whipped my head behind me.
Who else would possibly want to stick around the school pool after class on a Friday? That's when I noticed the plod of those flip flops got even slower.
They were all black, Old Navy style classics. They were filled by strong but slender brown feet with well manicured toes.
His toned legs were bare up to his knee and then covered by blue and light green board shorts. A loose tank top hung on his frame, highlighting the surprising broadness of his shoulders.
Jason looked like black boy joy personified.
But why was he here?
"Why are you here?" I asked. "You sit out swim class every week and now you are in trunks?" I gestured at him as I took in his look again.
When I got to his face he seemed annoyed like he usually does in my presence, but also a little apprehensive.
"Well, you kept harassing me about lessons and I saw you run this way after class, so I followed." Jason shrugged.
"What? You want to actually get a swim lesson from me?" I looked around in a bit of disbelief. "Is this a joke your girls put you up to?"
"No man." Jason huffed. "Actually, forget it, and forget you saw me." He started to double back and plod back to the locker room.
I ran as fast as I could on bare feet and wet tile to get ahead of him.
I nearly lost my balance, but in what must have been some rare moment of kindness Jason put his hands on my shoulders to steady me.
Our eyes met briefly before he darted them away towards the ceiling.
"Look Jason, I'm sorry I never thought you would take me up on it. But if you want to learn I'm eager to teach?" I was sheepish at that point.
Jason and I are two different types of guys and in most circumstances I would be seen as the tough jock who shouldn't be caught within spitting distance of a "sissy",
but Jason's unshakable confidence kind of intimidated me.
You don't get to become a black gay boy who not only is surviving high school but thriving without having skin made of steel. I admired that, I also envied it.
Now that he appears to be letting me see a bit behind that tough facade, I'm a little shaken.
"So I never learned how to swim, you know you don't see a lot of black people in the water. I just figured it was the way it is. Then I saw you on the swim team.
I just, I just want to get past the fear."
This was easily the longest conversation Jason and I have ever had in all our years in school together. Honestly, my heart raced a little. "Yeah. I can totally teach you.
And no I'm not gonna put your business out there. I don't clown people like that." I said, gripping his bicep.
He just looked at me, and nodded. So I walked over to the pool again, slipped in and raised my hands over the edge reaching out to him. "Well, the first thing you have to do is get in."
Jason kicked off his flip flops and started to pad his way to the pool nervously. I stopped him mid stride.
"Wait! You are getting in the pool with your shirt on? C'mon man take that off! You got nothing to hide here, also that baggy fabric is just gonna drag you down."
He quickly lifted the tank top over his head, then took it and his flip flops to the risers and put them neatly on one of the benches.