Barefoot I stand over the edge of the pool. Water swells beneath, waiting for my soul. I look ahead. My father cringes when he sees Kyle hold my hand. What is my father doing here? He places his hands in a circle around his mouth and screams. I’m sure he’s calling my name. “Jake.” I can’t hear him through the cacophony of the crowd. He runs towards me.
He looks angry. I’m confident that if there were a bat around, my father would use Kyle’s head as a baseball and hit a home run.
Kyles squeezes my hand in reassurance. “It’s okay. We can do this.”
Really? He doesn’t know my father. I’m a dead man. I won’t be old enough to go to the Saloon and have a drink with the man I love. “I love you. No matter what happens, I’ll always love you, Kyle.”
Kyle blows me a kiss. “I love you too, Jake Wilson.”
A loud commotion echoes throughout. They’re watching, waiting for us to plunge into the depths of the water. Placing bets as if there are sharks ready to eat us. Who will still be alive, die, and go to heaven or hell?
A gunshot deafens me. Kyle, let’s go of my hand. I jump into the pool. I swim as if for my life. Kyle is close behind me. He’s a stronger swimmer than I. He gains on me. For a moment, we swim in unison. He smiles and passes me. My heart leaps. I can’t breathe.
I keep swimming. This is my life, and I must make my father proud. I can reach the goal and stay afloat. My lungs hurt for air. My leg cramps. I’m almost there. I can do this. I have a future with the man of my dreams. I want to be with him no matter what.
I close in on Kyle. We’re swimming side by side again. I can see the other side approaching. I’m tired. I can’t catch my breath. Another cramp. My mind goes blank, and I can’t see anymore. I hit my head on the tile wall.
The crowd cheers, “Kyle. Kyle. Kyle.”
Kyle wins. First Place. I am proud of him. I am afraid of my father. I see him over me. Reaching out to me. I take his hand and come out of the pool. He hugs me and soaks his suit. I’ve never known my father to get his Armani wet, especially with chlorine water. I’m so confused.
He holds my shoulders. His eyes shed tears. He can barely talk from the trembling in his body. “I’m so proud of you, son. You won second place. A silver medal.”
“Dad. Why are you crying?”
“All these years, I thought you were losing on purpose, just lazy, or letting some guy win.”
“I didn’t win. I’m confused.”
“I saw you struggle for your breath. That didn’t stop you; you just kept going.”
“Why are you here?” I asked.
“The doctor called me this morning.”
I fall to the floor. Weak and tired. “What’s wrong with me?”
My father holds me tight. As a crowd grows around me. “Jake. Jake. I’m here.”
“Jake. What’s wrong.” Kyle asks.
“Son. You have a heart condition, and you can’t swim anymore. That’s why I’m here, to stop you. But I was too late.”
“My chest hurts. I can’t breathe.” I see a blur, “Kyle?”
Kyle holds my hand. “I’m here. Don’t go. You can’t go like this.”
My father shifts me to another set of arms. “Kyle. Hold him. Someone, I call nine, one, one.”
Kyle holds me tight. “You can’t leave me like this.”
I drop my head onto Kyle’s warm skin and let go of my senses.
I wake up, and I don’t know where I am. The room is dark. Beeping sounds surround me. I’m scared. “Dad! Dad? Where are you?”
“He’s with the doctor.” Kyle rushes to me. “You scared us. Don’t do that again.”
Kyle is still wearing his swim shorts and a jacket. I reach out to him, “Kyle. Where am I? What happened?”
“You’re in the hospital. You have a condition, and the doctor is keeping you overnight.” He kisses my hand. He kisses my lips.
Someone clears his throat. It’s my father. “Kyle. Your mother is here to pick you up.”
“I want to stay with him!” Kyle holds my hand tighter.
“Go home, Kyle.” My Dad says firmly.
“Dad. I’m sorry. I didn’t want you to know yet. I wasn’t sure how to tell you.”
“Kyle. Go with your mom,” my Dad said more firmly. “When you’re showered and dressed appropriately, come back and keep him company tonight. Make sure you eat first.”
Kyle smiles. “Thank you, Mr. Wilson.” He turns to me and holds my hand tight. “I’ll see you tonight.” As he walks out the door, he winks.
“Are you happy?” My Dad sits next to me. I have never been able to decrypt his face. What is he feeling? Is he mad?
“Dad. I can explain.”
“Explain what? That you have a boy that loves you? Get over it. You’re my son. I love you, and if he loves you too, then theirs no issue.”
“Dad?” I’m confused. I start to cry.
“I’m going to ask one more time. Are you happy?”
I tremble. I’m scared. “I’ve only known Kyle. And yes, he makes me happy.”
My Dad took me in his arms carefully to not pull the IV. I cry on his shoulder. He calls and holds me tighter. “Just promise me that he invites me too when Kyle competes.”
“Thank you, Dad.”
My Father Cringes
May 24, 2017
Revised: May 24, 2022
Word Count: 942