The Wallby Liza Porter
Camp Pendleton, Winter 1967 The east end of the swimming pool is fifteen feet deep where Sgt. Dave orders his Marines to heave themselves off sky-high platforms in full war-time gear, while we, the innocents, start swim practice at the far end, Sgt. D yelling at us from his corner. Our small forms swim, shallow to deep as darkness comes, fifty meters up and back the black-lined lanes of that heated pool, our limbs disappear into mist in the shallows, the pool lights illuminate us like ghosts floating in some murky turquoise lagoon, our mothers shiver in blankets wrapped like shrouds. Do they ever hold their breath like the mothers of boys going off to war hold theirs, like we in that safe pool hold ours between strokes, do the mothers ever fear their children will disappear, they'll never actually touch the far wall and come back, little robots with machine gun arms, pumping hearts in training for the inevitable skirmish with the enemy at next weekend's swim meet. Each time I swim past the point where shallow drops abruptly to deep, where Marines not much older than me are learning to survive that wet green vastness on the other side of the planet, I look down at the ominous drop and wonder if I have the guts to stop and hold my breath, to dive down and grab that underwater wall—walk myself hand by hand down its rough cement, all the way to the bottom, lungs full to bursting, fingers small suckers on that painted surface. No gear on my back, nothing but my slick young body in its red white & blue striped suit, I keep going, staring into the abyss, and wonder if there's some halfway point out in the Pacific, perhaps the same spot they say the international date line is, where a wall like this, only thousands of feet deeper, divides the earth into two distinct pieces, I wonder if anyone has ever tried to pull herself down to see if there's a doorway there, somewhere, and I want to know if anyone has ever really gotten to the bottom of anything in this world without dying. © 2006 by Liza Porter. All rights reserved.