Rain hisses on the surface of the pool. When I watch you walk through the mist towards the starting blocks with your fists tucked under your chin and elbows hugging your ribcage, I have a vision of myself at your age. I remember standing on the brink, toes curled down over the edge, antelope legs goose-bumping, kneecaps quivering.
Later I remember reaching for you from my own body. You floated up to me through the warm waters of the birthing pool swirling with secretions from our two bodies. As I gazed into your eyes already open to embrace your first breath of air, I promised I would never make you to jump into the icy waters of that school pool and swim ten lengths until your head felt like it would explode with cold.
But today I watch your coiled anticipation, see your muscles flex with the pop of the pistol, watch those fingers I always thought would prefer the flow of a piano keyboard, cleave the water. As you kick away from the last tumble turn, a jelly of bubbles churns behind you. I know your lungs are bursting from the pump of your legs and the haul of your shoulders. I know when you twist your head to breathe you can see you are an arm’s length ahead of your nearest opponent, and my heart rate lifts with yours.
Your fingertips touch the wall before the others, and there is a moment where time is a vacuum as you gather yourself. The water catches up with you, and laps over the edge of the pool. You turn to the clock at the far end and your eyes open wide in wonder as you realise your victory and your achievement.
I let out the breath I have been holding for twelve years and know it is time to cut the cord.