Brilliant with stars (and pungent with chlorine)

The summer night sky above me is brilliant with stars and pungent with chlorine. It’s after midnight and I’m cliffhanging in the deep end alone. My grandfather’s white Wendy statue (from Peter Pan) leans over me and looks down beyond me into the now-black water. Everyone else has gone to bed exasperated with me arriving at around 11pm wanting a swim and company and wanting to offload my busy, over-stimulating week in the Rand Daily Mail newsroom. So I’m alone with my thoughts and the stars and the night’s balm. This is the pool of my childhood; the pool I learnt to swim in; the magnet of water that draws me from right across the other side of Johannesburg in the dark, across the miles. I swim all over this town, the Zoo Lake pool which is nearest to work, the Rhodes Park pool where my nana lives, the Wemmer Pan pool closest to home. But this pool draws me because of its slight elevation and its view. My grandfather’s house, bought just after Sharpeville when land was cheap, is on a rise on the northern side of the city. This suburb is still being built and so it’s surrounded by open land. The pool is open to the sky in a way none of the others — crowded in a city — can be.

The shadows below the cliff are just beneath my feet. This pool is really deep. My grandfather didn’t buy a ready-made shell, he worked with a builder to create a pool you could do a decent length in and have the satisfaction of diving into. It also slopes quite dramatically to the plug hole. I hang, it’s very pleasant — and a relief — to be held. Buoyant is the world used of the weightlessness of body and it’s a feeling I’m addicted to. I seem to need — at 21 — to either be submerged — and hanging — or hurtling in a car fast. I’ve hurtled to get here, in my mother’s Beetle, on a deserted highway, fast. And I’ll hurtle back again to another house where all the lights are out and all the occupants asleep. I can’t understand the waste of these intoxicating hours.

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