Nelson parked the car and turned off the engine. With a strange surreal feeling filling him, he pulled the key from the ignition. The next moment, the swimmer closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Then he exhaled slowly.
So I’m back… I’m finally back to the pools for a competition… I’m finally back in the game, the athlete thought, grabbing the steering wheel. Despite how nervous he was, there was a smile forcing itself on his lips.
Nelson got out of the car and looked around the school grounds where the competition would happen. It’s been a long time since I stepped inside a real school, he thought, smiling as he remembered his days as a student.
I was such an awful. How many times I was sent to the principal’s office for cutting class?
He chuckled with the memory. It’s not my fault it the pools are more interesting than those whiteboards. A classroom was too stuffed for me… it was awful staying sitting for so long… I’d rather work my body…
Guess that’s why my mom thought I was hyperactive brat…
As he thought back to his days as a student, the image of his cute manager popped in his mind and the swimmer blushed. How about Cris? Was he a good student? Nelson stopped to imagine for a moment. Then he laughed as he dismissed the idea.
Zero chance. There’s no way Cris was a good student. I bet he was just as bad as me. But if I skipped class to hang out with my friends, he also skipped class, but to do other things with the boys.
Once again Nelson blushed.
I can picture him as one of those kids who slept through the first classes and in the others, he kept talking all the time and barely paid any attention. Even so, for some reason I feel like he managed to avoid summer school by cramming everything at the last minute. Then he would flash that cute smile and say that everything went according to his plan, despite the cold sweat running down his face.
I also get the feeling he was popular. With everyone in this class. Maybe with everyone in the school. Cris is the sort of guy who’d talk about boys with the girls and about the girls with the boys, giving them hints as one of the ‘inside guys’.
But I’m also 100% sure he would make most boys uncomfortable with his lewd jokes and hints. Wait, scratch that. Knowing him, I bet flirted with them without any restraint. How many boys did he hit on and make them question themselves…?
Cris is so cute and cool that’s borderline unfair.
And now I’m with him…
Nelson couldn’t stop smiling at the idea, his heart thumping faster.
I wished I could’ve met him back in those days… we could’ve been together sooner, the swimmer thought. But maybe I wouldn’t have fallen for him if we had met back then.
His heart filled with joy with the picture of Cris in his mind. But in the next moment, the athlete shook his head.
I love him. There’s a lot I wanna share, have and do with him. But I can’t be thinking of Cris. Not right now. I’ll think only about him afterwards. Now I have to focus on the competition. Not only for me, but for him too.
The swimmer looked around, but since it was his first time in this school, he had no idea where the pool was. As he wondered what to do, he saw one security guard patrolling the school grounds.
“Excuse me,” Nelson called the guard, walking towards the overweight man. “I’m here for the swimming tournament, but I don’t know where the pool is…”
The security guard had a puzzled look on his face.
“Swimming tournament? Today?” He scratched his chin for a moment and then his face lit with comprehension. “Ah… that’s right… there was something like that today… I forgot…”
You forgot…? Nelson maintained the same expression, but he couldn’t help sigh in his head. Guess this is the level I’m now…
The guard took a deep breath before speaking again. “Anyway, the pool’s that way. Behind that building there.”
He pointed to a building that looked like a gym on the other side of the parking lot.
“Thanks,” Nelson said, walking away.
I know after the accident and everything else, I have to start from the bottom. But to think I’m in a competition where the security guards don’t even know it’s happening…
The swimmer sighed and tried to ignore how that made him feel. I knew that from the start. It doesn’t matter how and where. Since I have the chance to get to the top again, I’ll take it with everything I got.
But before he had taken a few steps towards the pool, the security guard called him.
“Hey, you! Wait a minute. Aren’t you that guy?” the overweight man said, shaking a stubby index finger towards the swimmer, his eyes narrowed.
“I’m sorry?” Nelson asked with an innocent face.
He had a hunch what the guard was talking about, but he decided to play dumb.
“That guy… er… that swimmer who got into that nasty accident some time ago… Nelson something, I think…”
“Ah, yes… that’s me,” the swimmer said with a yellow smile. How can people still remember me?
“Ha! I knew it!” the guard’s face lit with a smile as he got more excited. “You know, I saw you on TV today!”
“Eh… I was on TV today?” I didn’t hear anything about that, he thought, his cheeks a shade of red.
“Yeah, you were. The reporter was talking about how you’d have your first competition today after that accident. But had no idea it’d be here, where I work,” the guard said with a smile. “Hey, can I take a selfie with you? My daughter won’t believe when I tell her that I met the guy that we saw on TV today.”
“Y-yeah… sure…” Despite the surprise, Nelson didn’t hate the situation. I can’t believe after everything, thing like this still happens, he thought, smiling for the camera as the guard place a hand on his shoulder.
“Thanks. Hey, I’ll take you to the pool,” the guard offered, still smiling as he put his phone back in his pocket.
Nelson accepted. After they got there, the security guard went back to his patrol.
Despite the unusual situation, the swimmer felt his mood improving. But when he saw the pool and the surroundings, the smile faded. Guess this is part of my reality too, the swimmer thought.
Before his eyes, there was an Olympic size pool, with its water clear and still. But that wasn’t what caught Nelson’s attention. It was the bleachers. Or better yet, the lack of it.
The last tournament I was in, it was at a place that could hold over 10 thousand people. And in that day, it was almost full house.
And now, there’s not even place for the spectators to sit… guess only friends and families are coming to watch this competition…
Nelson closed his eyes and exhaled through his nose, trying to get rid of those feelings.
It does not matter. I have the chance to climb back to the top, he said to himself again. I’ll grab this chance with both hands. For me and my future… and for Cris too.
Despite blushing as he thought of his manager, Nelson drew strength from that face, from that smile that he grew to love.
Yeah. For me and my future. And for my b-boyfriend. Nelson used both hands to cover his face; it had become an alarming shade of red. But that was nothing compared to the huge smile he had.
With his resolve remade, Nelson headed to the men’s locker room. At that point, he wasn’t surprised by the fact that the door wasn’t locked. Holding his urge to sigh, the swimmer went to a box at the entrance with many keys. All the keys had a small plate with a paper with a number written on it for a keychain.
Nelson took a random key and after looking around, he realized he was alone in the locker room. “Is there anyone here?” the athlete asked just to be sure.
When there was no answer, the swimmer smiled in relief.
Great. As I hoped. It’s just as Cris said. No one would be crazy enough to get here so soon. But thanks to that, I can do all my pre-tournament rituals without anyone to get in the way, Nelson thought, placing his bag on the bench in the middle of locker room.
He took a deep breath and relaxed his entire body. Let’s get started.