In high school I was on the swim team. Though generally it’s least male exponent, I remained an active participant for the last three years of school as swimming seemed to bolster my health over the winter months. There are alot of random aspects of the experience I recall here and there:
- Friends and aquaintences of interesting character, now gone their separate ways.
- The various away pools: one with salty water, one with disinfectant troughs you had to walk through when entering the locker-room, and a third that was so sauna-like it sapped your strength.
- Painting a ceiling tile in the guy’s locker-room with the words to Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Boxer”.
- The day I swam several hundred extra yards until everyone else had left, in order to avoid getting my hair shaved in solidarity with the rest of the team.
But the one thing that really stands out in my mind is the moss pit.
Almost always when we were practicing there were “lane lines” in the pool. Lane lines are the floated ropes, generally made of hundreds of plastic disks, that divide the pool into separate lanes for lap-swimming. Occasionally the lane lines, or some of them, would be taken out of the pool to allow the diving team to have the necessary access.
The event in question must have happened sometime after the lane-lines were taken out, but before the swim-team had entirely abandoned the pool to the divers.
My memory of the event is kind of vague on certain details while others stand out well. I seem to recall that someone on the diving board had instructed the rest of the team to, “Swim under-water around the diving board! I want to see what it looks like when I jump in,” or something similar maybe.
This potentially dangerous request (Don’t swim where someone’s about to dive kids. You could get your spine broken!) was apparently honored, as the next memory I have of the event is an underwater view of a couple dozen swim-suit-clad figures sort of drifting, bodies oriented in random directions, limbs occasionally twitching for stability, in a hemispherical cluster underwater around the diving board.
This was no orgy of writhing, tightly packed bodies though. Aside from the usual akwardness that PDAs cause, there seemed to be an unspoken but general trend away from close physical contact underwater, possibly as the motion restrictions such contact causes potentially induce panic in such an airless setting.
Instead there was ample space between the participants in this exercise and they moved in a sort of graceful yet uncoordinated brownian motion, something like I’d imagine strands of sea-kelp and other debris might. It was in some strange way beautiful and surreal to my aquatic-loving aesthetics. And in a few moments the diver broke the surface and it was over.
Afterward I have this vague recollection of mentioning something about it to Allen Radway and him calling it a “moss pit” (as opposed to the mosh version I suppose), as if it was a phenomena that he’d known about and experienced before in some form.
Maybe it doesn’t sound like much of an experience to write home about, but at the time it seemed so fascinating a thing. Maybe a sort of event that would happen again when folks were in the mood for fooling around on some playful occasion. But I can’t actually remember a repeat of the event or anything much like it taking place again, nor did anyone ever bring it up again.
Over the years the moss pit has taken on an even more surreal quality in my memory. I have difficulty remembering if it was actually a real occurance or possibly just a dream I had. Although the event was brief, and should seem therefor compact in my memory, the few seconds it took have expanded somehow. Different aspects of the event take on different value in my recollection so that certain parts seem plausible, while others I have trouble convincing myself actually happened.
Ultimately it has ended up a bit like a scene from Big Fish where a mundane event taken on some sort of legendary stature (and dubious authenticity) as I try to piece together an explanation that truely captures the zeitgeist of that moment.