The Infinity Pool
An Instant Legend from Sueno Azul
The boy knew the pool before he knew the Earth. He entered this world at the shallow end, between his mother's legs. She was cocoa-brown and smelled like cocoa-butter in the sun.
The old man who lived in the pool was fish-belly white, except where he had crisped the skin of his back and neck the color of a mountain trout. The old man swam constantly, following the curving lines of the pool's edge, so like the contours of the boy's mother.
When the boy was able to float and kick beyond the shallow end, the old man met him and showed him how to swim, always keeping low in the water, stroking without thrashing, turning the head just enough to catch a breath of air between many long strokes.
The old man always circled the pool in the same way, turning clockwaise as he copied its shape, a figure 8 lying on its side.
"Why do you always swim the same way?" the boy asked when he had reached the age of questions.
The old man paused at the center of the pool, where it narrowed like a woman's waist.
"It is necessary for the world."
"Why do you never stop?"
"But I stopped for you. Pay attention. Listen and look."
The boy listened. He heard nothing. He had to listen harder before he realized how strange this was. The orchestra of the forest was utterly silent. Great fronds that banged like tin roofs in the wind hung limp. Birds and frogs and geckos had all lost their speech. When the boy looked out to the river beyond the pool he saw it was as still as a springless pond. Already clouds of mosquitoes were rising, noiselessly, above the standing water.
The old man slid forward in the pool, turning a half-lap. Songbirds sand opening bars from Mozart. Fish rose from the rushing river to snap at flies.
"Do you see now?" said the old man, who now turned on his pack, pedalling with his feet.
"What would happen if you swam the other way?" The boy pictured this. Instead of hugging the curves of the pool, the swimmer would cross over at its waist, reversing direction, swimming with his back to the rising sun.
"That would be very terrible. But sometimes this is necessary too. You will understand when it is your time to become the Swimmer."
To be continued