An attempt to create an atmospheric piece.
|I stare at the building, with its clipped grass verges and overflowing litterbins basking in the lowered sun’s glow. Framed by wire fences the modern angles and geometric faces glare back at me, daring me to enter. Blue letters spell out the name, cascading down the walls, its many windows remind me of candles upon a table as they sparkle in the sun. Opening the car door I say goodbye to my dad and begin to walk. Far away and full of shadow, the door fills me with dread, like some portal to another world.
I am proud of myself for getting this far and I have revised the procedures. I know the correct techniques. I am in control. I remind myself of this but still my pride is coupled with a tremor of apprehension. Children swarm around me, uniforms disheveled, ties torn off as they jostle in the opposite direction. Looking forward to the weekend, they are going home to their TV sets and teas. Suddenly I loathe them, their youthful freedom, their happy smiles and their inquisitive unfriendly stares. Their arms swinging, clapping and hi-fiving as the distance between them and the building increases and I get closer, they are escaping whilst I am sucked in. I feel hungry, having not eaten since lunchtime at college and glancing at my watch I calculate that it’ll be four hours until I eat next. Another time, I’ll bring sandwiches but for now my stomach groans. The building looms over me as I enter, cold air and shadows press against my legs. New breezeblock walls greet me, their yellow paint already chipped from contact, the blue skirting board garish and scuffed. Brilliant white signs direct me, their red arrows glinting under the harsh lighting. I enter the sports block; the smell of sweat and frantic bodies washes over me. Matching blue notice boards depict league tables and photographs of athletes in various motions, frozen forever in time. Several students linger in the corridor as if they are unsure what to do, following me with their eyes, their mouths whispering that I am the new guy.
The changing rooms are small and humid; the smells of chlorine and football pitch overpower me, the floor dotted with steppingstones of mud showing passage across the wet floor. The lockers with their many doors glisten under the halogen lights, some with keys, some without, some hoarding various left-behind belongings as if they were magpies. An elaborate concoction of lost property has been flung into a plastic tub in the corner, its transparent lid displaying the dog-eared jerseys and trunks within. Dropping my bag down onto the nearest bench I sit, avoiding the wetness left behind by the previous visitor. I check my watch again 3:45. I have 20 minutes until my shift starts. 20 minutes to untangle the throw lines, retrieve the incorrectly placed safety equipment, to put the lane ropes in, to get the teaching equipment out and to check poolside.
I sigh and glance into my bag. T-shirt, shorts, whistle, drink. I pull my shirt over my head, toss it into the bag carelessly and replace it with the yellow one, it’s back spelling out LIFEGUARD in red lettering. I struggle to pull a tubular bandage over my right knee, just visible under my red shorts, prepared for when it starts to ache. Dressed in my uniform I stuff my jeans into my bag and force them inside, reaching in to grab the pocket mask from the bottom. I open its case and check that everything is inside, hoping that I won’t have to use it, but glad that I have it with me. Slinging the bag over my shoulder I navigate the benches and pass the showers. Their nozzles dripping gently, the water running down the cool blue tiles like rain upon a misted window, leaving trails in their wake.
The room I enter is not overly large, its floor-to-ceiling windows light the smooth ripples of the pool and casting shadows upon the single inadequate line of benches at the far end, the deep end. It is quiet and pleasant. Turning on the halogen lighting destroys the peaceful atmosphere and it feels fake and hostile as chemicals force themselves into my nostrils. The yellow signs display the depth 1.8 meters. I check the temperature, 30 degrees, yet it feels so much hotter as sweat forms on my brow and my shirt clings to my chest.
Entering the storage room I’m hit with a band of cold air, the temperature plummets as I gather the equipment, this room is frigid in stark contrast to the previous one. My cold feet and bare legs stepping over various stack-a-boxes filled with brightly coloured toys. I return to the pool.
I am suddenly overcome with anxious fear; will I remember what I have to do in an emergency? Has my training paid off? Grabbing the radio I check that it’s on the correct channel. 5. Ok, good. I glance at the clock 3:55. 15 minutes to go. I start to arrange the ropes, my wet feet slapping against the tiles. The silence soothes me although I know screams, laughter and tears will soon break it, as the calm water will be splashed in excitement and fear. With the slight hum of the filtration system for company I pad gently around the edges of the basin, water lapping at my toes and the quiet discomfort of anxiety eating at my mind. I take a deep breath of the thick, warm air and push it out again in a determined sigh. This is my domain now. I am in control. Signing in for my shift I blow my whistle for the first time, its eerie shrill chirp echoing around the empty pool. I wonder how many times I will have to use it.
Sitting atop a diving block I survey the room, everything is in place, nothing has been forgotten. The sound of flip-flops from the changing rooms reaches my ears, marking the entrance of my supervisor. I wave from the far end and swing myself off the block, making my way to the shallow end I await the arrival of the first kids and hope none of them are “screamers”.