two girls are swimming in two lanes, separate with a timer overhead
counting up their seconds. it’s a race to first, to the end of the lane,
to the medals and the glory and the place where water turns into land
and the dry hugs that wait there. it’s a race and
there’s a winner in the pool right now and it’s
either the girl with the red swim cap
or the one whose goggles fall off as soon as
she hits the water.
they are both in high school and they both do not know the other’s name.
the girl with the loose goggles is the crowd’s favorite, the dark
horse, the safe bet that she’d probably win hands down if only
her goggles had stayed on.
the one with the red swim cap knows this, and it makes her want to
kick harder, kick better
kick through the water to the girl’s face
and leave a mark and some blood and a half scribbled apology
that she will never mean, that they cannot make her mean.
the girl with the loose goggles knows this because she feels it too
with all the energy she has left. they are the same. and she whispers
through the water to listen to how the crowd screams one name and listen
to how no one knows the other. listen how they want me to win.
listen to how i will.
she has her hands spread out, ready to catch the kick as it
comes to her, ready to hold onto that foot
and drag the other
down with her.
and for four laps, they cannot remember caring about anything more than the other,
consuming them viciously and completely much like love would,
much like envy would, much like winning will.
they do not know each other’s names but one will go home and say
if only my goggles stayed on or
if only the people cheered for me or
if only she had not been there.
they do not know the other’s name but
the water they disrupt ripples back and their ripples overreach and touch
each other and refuse to be forgotten and both will
go back to their house
and the girl with the red swim cap’s father who is dead will knock
on her bedroom door and ask her how the meet went
and he will not leave for years
and the one with the loose goggles’ father who she wishes were dead
will knock on her bedroom door and ask her
how the meet went and he will not leave for
they will hate each other more if they knew the other
had a paradise they do not let themselves dream about.
it is best to let them think that the only thing they do not know
about the other is their names.
as they keep swimming, first one and then the other a few milliseconds
the one with the red swim cap won’t stop
kicking the other one’s face
and the girl with loose goggles keeps eating at