I seek physical tests of my fate and my aptitude, of my worthiness and my value. It’s a dangerous game at times, I fail my own tests often, which humiliates me, but when I succeed, the tests have the potential to bring me a form of peace, perhaps even contentment that might last an afternoon. If I am on a run, I will tell myself in explicit words: So, you want to succeed? You think you deserve what you dream of? Prove it, Peter. Sprint through the end of this song. Ignore the cramp in your side and run harder. Run faster. If you do, it’ll come true, yes, if you make it to that mailbox by the end of the song, your dreams will come true. It’s so silly to admit it, I know. I’m embarrassed by this spirituality, if I may call it that. I’m embarrassed to admit that there is a part of me that, even for a fleeting moment, really believes these are accurate tests.
I find it quite difficult to say yes to myself. So far, when I’ve done it, when I’ve championed myself, I haven’t seen very much return, or at least, if I have, I haven’t recognized it. And it can be exhausting to always pretend some form validation wouldn’t mean anything.
So, what jumping into the water that night meant to me—I don’t know—it suddenly meant a great deal. I was nervous to do it, I was aware of my own vanity in the impulse to jump—I wanted others to follow— but I knew if I jumped in, I’d have to be okay if no one else did— so what? I wanted to swim alone anyway.
Was that really what I wanted most, for everyone to strip off their clothes and jump in with me? I could see it already, Nadine’s face coming above water, her hair slicked back, her blue eyes reflecting the light of the pool. Hen would leave the music behind and jump in too, then Martin, Sarah-Linda, Alex and Beth, Fabio, Anna, Lottie and Amber, Claudia and Julia, Jack, Andrea, maybe even Aaron would jump in— and it would all carry on—except we’d be in the water, together, and I’d feel proud that jumping first had brought them all in.
I remembered I was wearing white underwear, and this gave me pause. It gave me pause because I knew if I were to jump in, the white might turn transparent, and in essence, I’d be naked. I thought about it more. What’s the difference? So, you’re naked. Lots of people get naked all the time. Isn’t it nice to be naked?
I wanted to wait for just the right moment, I wanted it to happen during a fun song: the better the song, the greater the timing, the more powerful the call to join me would be. It might take time, I’d have to wait a few songs and not give it away, not spoil the drama, knowing I would soon jump in.
How ridiculous, to plan my own spontaneity.
I learned a lot in Palaia—by that I mean, I took lots of tests with all that time and beauty laying around. But this question, this wrestling that occurred inside of me that night, whether to jump or not— would I be followed, or would I be left to swim on my own and did that matter?—it was rather concise. These days, when I lose track of myself, I try to imagine standing before the glowing pool, and on this precipice of dry and wet, I can see myself turn inward and wonder in earnest, in the purest of ways, if I have the audacity to jump at all. My bare feet meet the tile, my jeans are around my ankles, my shirt’s thrown to the floor.
I did jump in. And no one followed, although they cheered me on. I swam, I dried off. Then Vlad closed the pool. And I’ve got to keep reminding myself how lucky this audacity makes me: Consider yourself lucky, Pete. Though it’s not a matter of pride, or a matter of vanity, but a matter of my own joy, my own experience of this brief life.
You see, I was the only one that got to swim.