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Standing Around at the Swimming Carnival

Saturday, Jun 5, 2021

Each year, Lola 6th School traveled to the base of the Thanveler Glacier for its swimming carnival. There was a big thermal pool there, heated by the Earth, and students competed in races for prizes and ribbons.

Tzipora told people she couldn’t swim. That was true — she sank like a stone. But she didn’t tell them the other part — that she never wanted to learn how.

There is a very tragic and pathetic self-consciousness that afflicts kids around her age. Boys and girls went to school together here, but they weren’t the same thing, were they? She saw girls usually clothed in capes and knee skirts showing skin she’d never seen before. There was this one girl, Cherrie, who was on the heavy side, and Tzipora marvelled unconsciously at how much bigger she looked without her uniform. She realised what she was doing, and was struck with shame — and relief it wasn’t her in that stupid one-piece.

“Oh my God,” Tzipora thought to herself, “That’d be me. What I’m doing now.”

Tzipora hadn’t worn a swimsuit since she was a kid in Colombia, and she wasn’t going to strip off in front of all these people who already judged her. In her mind, she was ugly-skinny, with scars on her shoulders and no figure to speak of. She didn’t think about these things usually, because all her clothes were a size too big, but a change room changed things.

No; she wouldn’t wear a swimsuit. She wouldn’t even take her shoes off. They’d think she was weird for sitting out, but they thought she was weird anyway. Every swimming carnival from here to graduation she’d suffer from the poolside — reading her books, eating her packed lunch and lying about how well she did to Baron when she got home.