My swimming coach called me
by a different name for something
close to two years. It was hard to
correct him from the pool – so I
never did. I just demonstrated the
strokes as best I could when he asked
“Everybody watch John”, he’d say. And
the kids in the pool would all look around.
There was no one called John in the group.
I’d wait a second or two – then point at myself as
if uncertain and the coach would nod. I’d push
off and show everyone how to do a
nice big arm-circle; fingers together,
pointing, cutting into the water. Arm high and strong.
Breathing bilaterally, feet pushing me forward.
John was bloody good!
One day – and I guess, in a way, it had all
been building to this…
The coach was in the changing room and he
had been talking to people about the big swim.
(It was the first time we’d all completed a continuous
mile, 88 lengths of that particular pool).
And then he was high-fiving everyone back out
by the pool. Hair still dripping, jandals slapping.
“Nice work John” he said and I took that high five
just as if it was for me. And someone walking alongside
said, loudly, “Why does he call you John? Why do
you answer to that?” I looked down. The coach was
gutted. Like some kid had just called him a very
dumb cunt. I looked up and cleared my throat,
made a choice, said, “cos that’s ACTUALLY
“No it’s not!” said my mum as she jangled the
keys by the door.
No more demonstrations from John in the pool.
And that coach left after about a month of
silence. We never spoke again. And I
never ever knew his name.