I stared at the water. For hours I'd just been sitting, watching it. It was almost hypnotic - at least to me. Twice a week I'd come down here and just watch it flow across the fringe of the land before retreating back to its depths. Back and forth, back and forth. The deep blue of the water contrasting with the pale brown of the shore, the soft invitation its gentle waving was offering to come and walk through it, letting it envelope me with its cooling embrace. Looking further across it I see children playing in its depths, hear their laughter and their playful screams as they race each other and duck each others heads below the surface. I see the serious swimmers determined to push themselves as hard as they can so they can feel that sense of accomplishment that comes with the burning muscles and tired lungs. Everyone is so full of energy here. Everyone is so alive. Everyone :-
A figure below the surface of the water. Arms reaching up, trying to bring the weight of the body with them, but they are too frail, too slow. There's nothing for them to grab on to and they just stroke the top of the pool without moving anything. People have stopped swimming, are looking over to the drowning woman. A few are screaming. Some are gathering up their children and trying to force them to look away even though they themselves can not stop staring. Two men are now lifting the woman out of the water, dragging her over the side of the pool. I race across towards them, ignoring all the signs that warn me against the dangers of running. I've read each of those signs a million times over the last 6 months and now I pray that their warnings are exaggerated. I slide the last few feet and drop down to lie next to her. Everyone moves away, gives me space to assess the situation. She's old. She's very old. Bollocks. I put her in the recovery position faster than I could have put myself in any position and begin shouting to her, trying to wake her up. Nothing. She's not breathing. I groan. She is very, very old. More Bollocks. There's no other choice. I begin CPR.
It's thirty seconds before she starts to breathe again. Thirty seconds of terrifying, panicky, heart-stopping, wrinkly, disturbingly hairy-lipped hell. Thirty seconds longer than I usually like to dedicate to having my face attached to that of a very old stranger's. But she coughs, and begins to breathe again. Yes! I've done it, I've brought a person back to life! She's coughing up more water than I had previously thought was in that pool, but she's alive!
Then she suddenly and unexpectedly sits up and headbutts me so hard in the face that I fall in to the pool myself and have to be helped out by the same two guys who had helped me save my octogenarian assailant's life less than a minute before.
"I'm fine. I'm fine," I assure them as I watch blood fall in to what had been a beautifully clear pool from what had been my beautifully shaped nose.
I look back at my elderly damsel of distress. She's collapsed again, but still breathing. I decide she's probably going to be alright until the paramedics arrive; at around the same time that I decide that there are too many people around to see me push her back in the water. I instead opt to go in to the changing rooms and vomit in to a toilet for several minutes.
When I returned to the poolside the woman had already been taken away in an ambulance and there were a group of policemen taking statements from those witnesses who hadn't felt the need to run away at the sound of sirens. One of them approached me as I entered the room.
"Ah, you must be the young man who saved her then. What's your name son?"
It took me a second to think of the answer, I must have still been in shock - all I could think about were whiskers. "Um...Jake, sir" I finally said.
"Well Congratulations Jake. You're a real hero".
He seemed to falter as he said the last part and looked me up and down. It was understandable. I've seen a lot of films and usually the hero isn't soaking wet and covered in his own blood, vomit and tears. But it was nice to hear all the same.
"Oh thank you sir, but I'm really not a hero." I tried to stand up tall and stick out my chest as I said this, to show I knew I really was a hero, but this action merely flung some of the wet cake mixture of bloody vomit over him. "I'm just another lifeguard."