Sink or Swim
“Look, she has hair on her kili-kili! Yecch! Blecch! Ewwww!” I whisper to my four-year-old sister Tisha, who is too busy splashing about in the water with her tiny little hands to care. “Yecch! Blecch! Ewww!” she squeals, followed by a fit of giggles. She’s copying the way I talk again. I don’t think she even knows what I’m talking about. But never mind. She looks so cute in her orange bikini I want to bite her.
Tisha hasn’t been listening to me lately. She should, because I’m her Ate, but these days she’s just been such a bad girl. Even Yaya says so. Suwail, she calls Tisha. Last year, in the sandbox in school, when I told her the Family Secret she just kept on shoveling sand into her little yellow pail. She was making a castle for her Princess Barbie doll.
“Tisha, I’ll tell you a secret but you promise not to tell, okay?”
“Okay.” She pressed her little palms to pack the sand into the pail and inverted it onto the ground.
“Swear to God? Cross your heart and hope to die?”
She crossed her heart with her left hand while patting the roof of her castle with her right.
“You know why Mom was crying again last night?”
“’Cause she was sad?”
“Yeah, but do you know why she was sad?’
Tisha just shrugged. She poured some water from her Thermos on her castle to make it more siksik. I wanted to scold her for wasting her cold drinking water but I was too busy telling her the secret.
“Dad had a child with another woman! We have a half-brother! His name is Diego!”
She didn’t even look at me. She scooped sand again into her yellow pail. Then, she got sand from the pail with her shovel…and put it into her Thermos! Into her drinking water! “Mwahahahahahaha!” she laughed an evil laugh like The Count on Sesame Street. “Sand Juice! With ice! Yum,yum! Want some, Ate Tanya?” She finally looked up at me and smirked.
Tisha isn’t listening to me either today on this very hot day at the Olympic-sized swimming pool at the YWCA, which is filled with lots of children who look negro already from their swimming lessons. The little girls’ bathing suits are not very nice, not like mine and Tisha’s, which Mom bought for us in Rustan’s. Mine is a pink one-piece with big yellow flowers and a bumblebee. Tisha’s is an orange bikini with plastic yellow rings that hold the bra in the middle and on each side of the panty. She chose it herself. She’s so arte talaga. The little boys are so magulo and their swimming trunks just look like ordinary pambahay. I think they go to public school because they’re not speaking in English. And the water smells funny, like Clorox mixed with sweat and rubber from their ugly black salbabidas. We’re on the side of the pool in the corner facing the street—me, Tisha and her—Diego’s mom, our swimming teacher, Hairy Kili-kili Woman.
“It’s okay with you?” I heard Dad say last week when Mom suggested we take swimming lessons with her. I almost said ‘Ewwww!’ out loud but I covered my mouth. “Why not?” Mom replied. “You’ve always wanted the girls to learn how to swim, right? She’s as good a teacher as any, I suppose. At least she’s someone we know,” she said. “Ang bait mo talaga,” he said and smiled.
She wasn’t always that kind to him about her. Last-last year, another one of Mom’s crying and fighting sessions with Dad woke me up. I ran to their room and saw her trying to grab a yellow Kodak envelope from Dad. “Let me see! Is that the kid? Let me see!” she yelled. I had never heard her shout at him before. I could tell Dad was very angry because his bushy eyebrows formed one straight line, like Bert’s in Sesame Street. “Give them back!” he yelled back at her. Their agawan became very rough. I got scared. Then, I got even more scared when Dad caught me peeking by the door and yelled at me, too: “Tanya! Go back to your room!”
Dad used to be nice, especially when he would tell me bedtime stories about Achilles and his heel and Medusa and her snake hairdo from his old brown Greek Mythology pocketbook. Or when he’d show me the great paintings of the world from the Book of Knowledge Encyclopedia like the “Mona Lisa” or the dark blue and yellow swirly one like in the song “Starry, Starry Night.” But lately, especially after Tisha turned two, he began to yell more and more often. Especially when we touched his things. Once when I got his giant brown Swingline stapler from his study table because I needed it to staple my assignment for English and I forgot to return it, he started screaming at the whole house. He yelled, “Sino ba’ng punyeta’ng kumukuha ng mga gamit ko?” and started throwing things. But I was only borrowing it! I just forgot to ask for his permission. I was too afraid to return the stapler, so I hid in my closet and buried it under my clothes until I was sure he was gone. Later, I returned it when he wasn’t looking.
Last February 14, Mom didn’t even come home at all. That day, we made greeting cards for our parents in art class with red art paper. I cut out two big hearts and glued them on top of each other and wrote “It’s Valentine’s Day!” on top of the hearts using red Pentel Pen. But when I got home and Mom wasn’t there, I got worried. So I wrote “Please don’t fight!” on top of “It’s Valentine’s Day” and put the card beside their dinner plates. I waited and waited for Mom to come home until I fell asleep. At midnight, I woke up and ran to the dining room. Their plates were still there, untouched. Maybe they went out to dinner together and didn’t see my card! So I got the card and went to their room. Dad was sleeping alone in their bed. Even if I was scared he might shout at me for waking him up, I tapped him on his back and gave him the card. I started to cry. “Where’s Mom?” I asked. “Don’t cry,” he said, “she slept in your Tita Alice’s house.” I didn’t ask why. He let me sleep beside him. When Yaya woke me up to go to school the next morning, Mom still wasn’t there.
Maybe Mom decided to be kind now because Tita Alice told her, “Just kill him with kindness,” when Mom confessed to her and my other titas, the wives of Dad’s brothers, that Dad had a kid with another woman. They were all in the garden pretending to look at Mom’s orchids. They thought I couldn’t hear them from where I was by the swing, but I could. I pretended to fix my favorite Raggedy Ann and Andy knee socks because their elastic parts were so worn out they kept rolling down. I had to put rubber bands on each knee and fold the top of each sock over to keep them up.
“Ang bait mo naman,” my Tita Mary said, “Okay lang sa ’yo?”
“Wala kong magagawa, eh. He’s always wanted a boy,” Mom shrugged. My other titas just kept quiet and looked away. “Eh, I couldn’t give him one. ‘Look o,” she pointed to Thea, our six-month-old baby sister in Yaya’s arms. “Another girl,” she sighed. “Wala akong laban.”
We are in the part of the pool near the stairs, and Hairy Kili-kili Woman is putting on her bathing cap. It’s like a shower cap but tighter and made of rubber. It’s bright green, matching her one-piece bathing suit with lots of leaves and flowers. Maybe her long, thick curly hair, which Yaya calls “kinky,” couldn’t fit into the cap, that’s why she had to wet it first to make it more flat. That’s how I first saw her kili-kili hair, which is also curly like the hair on her head, when she put her hands up to pile up all her hair on top to put the cap on. Ewwww. Her kili-kilis look like little curly porcupines. Maybe they need bathing caps, too. I imagine how that would look and start to laugh.
“First, we will learn how to do ‘bubbles’,” Hairy Kili-kili Woman tells us, leading us deeper into the part of the pool that says “3 FT.” The water reaches up to my kili-kili and almost up to Tisha’s neck. Tisha jumps up and down in the water and claps her hands. She loves bubbles. H.K.W. laughs, plants a kiss on Tisha’s cheek and jumps up and down with her. Ewwww. I flash Tisha a sungit look and try to make my eyebrows meet, but she doesn’t mind me. They’re holding hands in the water, and H.K.W. reaches out to me so I can join their circle, but I just stare at her and put my hands behind my back.
Okay, her name isn’t really H.K.W. It’s Amihan. Amihan Marquez. She’s a painter and a water ballerina. Mom told me this one night last year. I was on the floor in my room gluing pictures of flowers I cut out from her old Good Housekeeping magazines on bond paper for my “Flowers of the World” project in Botany. I thought she would get mad when she came into the room because I made so much kalat and spilled Elmer’s Glue on the floor. I was about to cover the gluey spot with a piece of bond paper so she wouldn’t see it when she suddenly sat down on the floor with me. She didn’t see the spot at all. Her eyes were red and she was wiping her sipon with a Kleenex. “Tanya, I have to talk to you,” she said, looking very serious. I wondered what I did wrong. Uh-oh, maybe I forgot to check if the magazines I was cutting were really old! Then, she got up and pulled me towards her. “Come with me,” she said and led me to the door. “Where are we going?” I asked. “To Aristocrat,” she said. “Let’s have a midnight snack.” It was only nine o’clock.
Mom, Tisha and I go to Aristocrat for breakfast every Sunday after hearing mass in Malate Church. It’s near our house on Carolina Street so we just walk. Dad stopped going to church a long time ago. Mom says he’s an atheist, which is someone who doesn’t believe in God. Mom says when he was a little boy he was a sacristan in their church, but when he became a grownup he stopped believing in God. That’s why Tisha and I study in the Learning Community where they don’t teach religion. Mom wanted us to go to a Catholic school like Assumption, but Dad said no. He said he wanted us to learn to think for ourselves and not according to any religion. That’s why when my cousins asked me to show them my First Communion picture and I said I didn’t have one, they laughed at me. Mom said not to mind them. She lets me take Communion anyway, because I like the taste of the Body of Christ.
“But Mom,” I whined, “I have to change first. I’m just in my pajamas and chinelas!” “That’s okay, let’s go, come on!” She almost yanked my arm off. That’s when I knew something was really wrong. She never allows us to leave the house unless we’re dressed nicely. We can’t even play outside in our slippers. We have to wear shoes.
I ordered my favorite Chicken Honey and a Choco-Vim. Mom wasn’t hungry. She just asked for tea. It was very different in Aristocrat at night. There were no children like on Sundays, no vendors in front selling balloons and colored popcorn and pet chicks and colorful maya birds in bamboo cages. Just negra-looking women in very short skirts wearing a lot of makeup, making landi to foreigners. I tried not to stare at them too much. I think they’re called Hospitality Girls. I see them hanging around the ago-go bars when the school bus passes by Mabini Street. While waiting for our order, Mom told me.
“You’re a big girl now,” she began. No, I’m not, I wanted to say, because when we form a line “according to height’ during flag ceremony, I’m just Number 2. “And you’re very smart for your age,” she continued. Oh, okay, maybe she meant I was only eight and already in Grade Four. All my other classmates were ten. “So I know it’s time for you to know,” Mom said, trying not to cry. She said Dad still loved us but he wanted a baby boy so badly that he had to find another Mommy for it. Mom said all she could make was girls like me and Tisha and Thea. But she said Diego, our baby brother, was very cute and we would meet him soon and he might stay with us during the weekends. She said not to tell other people, that it would be our Family Secret. Yaya later told me that Amihan was a kabit and Diego was an anak sa labas.
I tried to cry like Flor de Luna. I blinked my eyes very hard, waiting for tears to come out, but nothing came out. So I just embraced Mom and stroked her hair, which only made her cry more. I didn’t know what to do. The Hospitality Girls were looking at her. I said “Shhhh…” like I see in sad movies on TV. I felt like I was the Mommy and she was the baby. By the time my order came, I had lost my appetite, so Mom just told the waiter, “Take Home.”
Tita Amihan (Mom told me to call her that, but I still can’t say it out loud) is still smiling at me even if I’m suplada to her. Her teeth are very big and white, like her eyes. Maybe they look so white because her skin is so dark, not like Mom, who’s fair like me and has singkit eyes and short, straight hair like mine. We always have our hair cut in the same style in the beauty parlor, the Page Boy. It’s the same hairstyle in her wedding photo with Dad, where she looks so pretty in her Princess gown and he looks so handsome in his Amerikana, I swear they look just like a movie love team, like Susan Roces and Eddie Gutierrez or Gloria Romero and Juancho Gutierrez in the Sine Siete movies Yaya lets us watch every afternoon before our siesta.
Tisha looks more like Dad, dark and curly with big eyes. Yaya told me Tita Amihan looks like a Jeprox, like Sampaguita, because she’s always wearing long, loose clothes with no bra and doesn’t comb her hair whenever Yaya picks up Diego from their apartment every Saturday to bring him to our house. Once, when Mom heard me calling Tita Amihan a Jeprox, she got mad and said it’s not nice to call people names. She explained that Tita Amihan was an artist and probably a hippie, that’s why she looked like that. Mom said Tita Amihan was the one who painted the big blue and green painting in our sala. That’s what the A.M. in the bottom corner of the painting meant all along—Amihan Marquez! Well, it’s not really a painting of anything. It just looks like a jigsaw puzzle. Dad told me it’s called an abstract, but he didn’t tell me she painted it. It used to be my favorite painting in the whole house and I used to copy it all the time in my sketch pad with my Cray Pas—until I learned the Family Secret.
Well, I think she looks a like a bomba star. Like a negra Vivian Velez doing her sexy “Body Language” dance on Discorama on Channel 7. They have the same body, like in the rhyme the boys in school love to recite: “Wow sexy, Katawan Pepsi, Coca-Cola body, Lawlaw panty!”
Vivian Velez is also always bra-less. When she dances, she squirms and wiggles and her big boobs jiggle around, so Tisha and I laugh and copy her wriggly worm dance while singing, “When you’re moving next to me, I can feel your body heat, so come on move a little closer, let me feel your body heat…” Whenever we watch the show every Saturday night, Tito Boy, Mom’s younger brother, points to her nipples making bakat under her tube top and says “Hayop!”
Right now in the pool, Tita Amihan’s nipples are also making bakat under her wet bathing suit. She also won’t stop smiling at me. I hate her stupid smile. What’s she so happy about anyway? I suddenly remember that I haven’t seen Mom smile in such a long time. She’s always sad and crying or mad at Dad. “Okay, girls, who can show me how to inhale and exhale?” Tita Amihan asks. I raise my hand automatically like I always do when I know the answer in class. Tsk! Why’d I do that? Oh well. I won’t smile na lang. I show Tita Amihan and Tisha how, drawing in air through my nose and making my stomach small, then breathing the air out, making my stomach big. “Very good,” Tita Amihan exclaims and claps. “Now, we are going to make bubbles by doing what Tanya did—but under the water. Let’s blow out air through our nose and mouth. Let’s pretend we’re sea lions. Do you know what a sea lion is?” I roll my eyes. Sus! Of course I do! I learned it in Zoology. Does she know it’s a mammal? Tita Amihan sinks down into the water, and when Tisha sees bubbles form on top of her head, she gets excited and copies her right away. Soon, they’re both jumping up and down in the water again, making lots of bubbles and laughing when they come up. “Wow, Tisha, you’re a nachural!” she says, pronouncing natural with a “ch”. It’s just like the way Dad says pizza pie with a “ch” and supermarket and stupid with a “sh” instead of an “s”. They’re looking at me, but I just stand there with my arms crossed in front of me.
“Come on, Tanya, try it!” Tita Amihan calls out to me.
“Yes, Ate Tanya, try it, it’s fun!” Tisha squeals.
It looks pretty easy, but my feet are glued to the floor of the pool and I can’t move. It’s so noisy, I can’t concentrate—suddenly my ears have turned bionic and I can hear the kids in the pool talking, laughing, screaming and splashing water all at the same time. I stare at Tita Amihan’s curly porcupines. Maybe they’re baho like the anghit of the high school boys who play basketball in our school gym sometimes. I force myself to try. I bend my knees and crouch down until the water comes up to my chin, then I stop. I’m afraid to taste the water that’s been touched by her kili-kili hair, so I press my lips inwards very tightly to seal my tongue in, then continue crouching down until my head is completely under the water. But I forget to close my eyes! Ouch! The water goes inside my eyes and stings them, so I shut them very tight. I forget to exhale, so the water goes inside my nostrils, stinging them, too. Ouch! I jerk up and come out of the water. I start coughing and sputtering. My eyes are still shut tight and I’m pinching my nose because it’s so painful, like the time a grain of rice got stuck in it. Even my throat hurts. Tita Amihan rushes to me and puts her arm around me. “Oh no, Tanya, are you okay?” she asks. I struggle away from her grasp and grab the hand railing. “I’m fine, leave me alone,” I’m sungit to her again as I wipe the water from my eyes and smooth back all the clumped wet hair that’s all over my face.
I want to quit and leave the pool, but I can’t. I’m trapped. Dad won’t pick us up until five. I never wanted to be here in the first place, but I was afraid that Mom and Dad would fight again if I complained. Who cares about swimming anyway? Only Dad does. He says we have to grow up to be survivors. “One day, you’ll be on a boat that will sink. What if you don’t know how to swim? In life, you either sink or swim!” he always says. Dad grew up near Bauang Beach in La Union, so he learned how to swim at a very young age. He wants us to be like him, and even if we’re girls, he wants us to learn things like riding a bike and karate and sports. He got so angry last summer when Mom, Tisha and I came back from the YWCA and she told him she enrolled us in Hula and Tahitian Dance instead of swimming because all the classes were full when we got there. “Hula? Tahitian?” he screamed at Mom. “Ano’ng lecheng kaartehan na naman ‘yan? That’s not a survival skill! It’s just a waste of money. My money!” I got scared. He was already mad at Mom for enrolling us in ballet classes. Dad grew up poor and had to sell newspapers and shine shoes to put himself through school, that’s why I think he wants us to have a hard time, too. Whenever he sees us with a new toy or new clothes or shoes, he says, “When I was your age, we never had enough money for those things. We had to work to save up money for what we needed.” He says we might become spoiled brats if we get too used to special stuff. But Mom used to be a folk dancer, so she wanted us to learn dancing, too. She said we would have good posture and become graceful. I make sure Dad never sees me and Tisha practicing our dancing, and I always hide our ballet shoes and grass skirts under my bed. I know that if he sees them he’ll remember our dance lessons and get mad again. I’m always afraid to make him angry. He might get so mad and leave all of us and make a new family with Tita Amihan and Diego. These days, when I hear his car horn honking whenever he comes home early at night I grab Tisha and we run to my room and hide under my bed. But that’s not too often, because usually by the time he gets home we’re already asleep.
“Don’t worry, Tanya, you’ll get the hang of it before you know it! Let’s do something easier,” says Tita Amihan. She leads us to the gutter and tells us to hold on to it with both hands while stretching out our arms in front of us, then to let our legs float to the surface and kick our feet behind us. “Kick from your knees with your toes pointed,” she says. That’s easy, we learned how to point our toes in ballet. “Pretend the top of the water is the roof, and you’re breaking the roof from below with your feet.” she says. As Tisha and I kick the water-roof, I remember that Tita Amihan is a water ballerina. Mom told me she was an Aquabelle in Sulô Hotel, where there’s an underground restaurant with a huge glass window with a view of one side of the pool so the people eating could watch the Aquabelles do water ballet. I’ve always wondered if that’s how they met. Maybe Dad was eating there and saw her in the window like The Little Mermaid and fell in love with her. Or maybe he saw her nipples making bakat under her bathing suit. But I’m too scared to ask Mom. It might make her cry again. I wonder why Dad doesn’t want us to study ballet when Tita Amihan is a ballerina, too. Well, sort of. I want to be a ballerina, too, but the real kind, onstage.
“Now, girls, slowly put your face in the water, then try to release your hands from the gutter and kick backwards. Don’t worry, Tanya, you can close your eyes first. Inhale, exhale.”I look at Tisha. She’s doing it already—just like that, she can swim! Without touching the gutter! And her eyes are open! I can’t believe it. How can she be so brave? I’m surprised that I can even put my face down in the water, but I can’t let go of the gutter. Every time I try to let go, one hand at a time, just when I’m almost there I change my mind and cling to it again. It’s like I’m glued to the gutter with Elmer’s. What a scaredy cat!
Soon, my legs are tired. I stand up to see Tisha and Tita Amihan smiling again and looking at me. They must think I’m stupid and hopeless. “Keep trying, Tanya,” Tita Amihan says. “You can do it, Ate,” Tisha shouts. I roll my eyes. Why does she have to make kampi? Arrrggh! Why can’t I do it? I’m not stupid, I’m bright! In school they call me a prodigy. I can learn anything! Even this! Maybe if I learn this stupid thing we won’t have to see Tita Amihan ever again, and Dad will forget about her and our family will go back to normal. The sides of my tummy hurt. So does my head. I really just want to go home. But I can’t give up or she’ll think I’m stupid.
I shiver in the water but decide I will keep trying even if my fingers are all wrinkled like prunes and manhid. On my tenth try, just before I stand up to give up, I feel Tita Amihan’s hands on my stomach. “Relax,” she says, “relax your legs and put your face back in the water again,” moving me in the water towards the middle of the pool, “and let me teach you how to float.” I’m so tired, I have no strength left to put up a fight. Her voice is so gentle I feel like I’m being hypnotized. I become a very obedient girl and surrender to her. I can feel my whole body turning very straight in the water, touched only by the palm of her hand. Before I know it, my eyes have popped open without the water stinging them, and I can see the blue floor of the pool. It looks like a page from my math notebook. I imagine numbers on each tile and try to solve a math problem. But there are no numbers, just dark, skinny legs attached to ugly bathing suits running around underwater. All of a sudden, it’s very quiet. No noise from the public school children, no crying Mom, no yelling Dad. It’s like a very nice dream. In my head I can hear my favorite Church song, “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me…” I always wondered what ‘peace on earth’ was like. Maybe it’s like this. Just me and the water and no noise. My body is moving forward like a slow submarine. Nothing is touching me anymore except the water, and I feel like I’m in a cradle. A water cradle that’s rocking me to sleep. I can hear someone saying “Shhhhh…” and it’s not me. It’s Mom! “Shhhhh…” she says, and I’m back to being the baby again. I make bubbles without even trying.
After a while, my eyes begin to feel very heavy so I try to make them open wider. The floor has become even bluer, and more peaceful. When I look around me, there are no more skinny legs touching the floor! Where did all the children go? I look to my right behind me and see green flowers and leaves…attached to a body… attached to arms…attached to armpits—with hairy porcupines! It’s not Mom who’s rocking me, it’s Tita Amihan! I wriggle away from her and move the opposite way. I look to my left and see “6 FT.” written on the wall. I panic when I remember that the last time I got measured in the doctor’s office, I was just 4 feet tall. I struggle to get up and lift my head out the water, but my body shoots downward like something’s pulling me from below. I drop lower and lower near the blue floor. I can’t breathe. I can’t make bubbles. I’m sinking.
I really want to cry but I can’t underwater. Then, from out of the blue, Aquabelle swoops down to rescue me from the floor like Aquaman on Superfriends. She grabs on to my waist and wrist and pulls me up to the surface zooming through the water like a torpedo. I gasp for breath, coughing and spitting out water. She lifts me onto the pool’s edge, where Tisha is dangling her feet in the water with a very worried look. “Are you okay?” Tita Amihan asks, throwing a towel around me. “Why did you panic? You were floating already! You were really doing well, Tanya! You didn’t have to worry. I was right there beside you. Just trust me, okay? Next time, you just have to trust me.” I just stare at her. Then, I look at the big clock by the lifeguard tower and say, “It’s almost five o’clock. Dad will be here soon. My Mom is waiting for us at home.” I get up and run to the ladies’ shower room, forgetting to bring Tisha along.
When we come out of the YWCA, Dad is already waiting in the entrance with Diego. His face lights up when he sees Tita Amihan in her loose, white backless dress. I don’t think he even sees me or Tisha until she runs to him and shouts, “I can swim, Dad! I can swim!” He smiles, then looks at me. “How about you, Tanya?” He looks back at Tita Amihan, who gives him a strange look like they have a code. I say nothing, except “Where’s the car?” He points to the parking lot across the street. He’s so busy looking at her that when I say “Can I have the key?” he just hands them over without looking. I leave them and walk towards the car. When I turn around, I see Dad and Tita Amihan holding a squealing Diego in between them, swinging him back and forth with their arms while they talk. I’ve never seen Dad laugh and smile so much. He looks so happy. Not mad like he usually is at home. Tisha wants to join them and tries to squeeze in, so I run back to get her and force her to come with me to our car.
“Tisha, get in the back of the car!” I order her. “Ate!” she whines but obeys me. I think of joining her in the back seat, but I worry that Tita Amihan might sit in front, and that’s Mom’s seat. So I sit in front instead. If she wants, she can stay with Tisha in the back. I sneak a look across the street again. I catch Dad kissing Tita Amihan on the lips. Then, she walks away from him in the opposite direction with Diego. Dad crosses the street to join us, alone.
When we get home, it is almost six thirty, and Mom is standing in front of our gate carrying Baby Thea, right under the lamppost. In the ray of light shining over her head, I can see a cloud of lamoks flying on top of her hair. She’s wearing her pink Chinese silk robe on top of her pambahay and just chinelas, and has a kawawa face—the kind Tisha makes when she knows she’s about to be spanked. She’s wiping her nose with a Kleenex again. I wonder how long she’s been waiting for us? She didn’t have to stand out there in the street—why didn’t Yaya just call her inside the house when Dad honked the horn? I suddenly feel very sad. We didn’t even think of buying any pasalubong for her!
I don’t care if Dad gets mad, I run out of the car to her and hug her tight. She smiles down at me and asks, “So, can you swim now?” I whisper, “I didn’t learn Mom, she’s not a good teacher!” And just before Tisha can shout from the car window, “I can swim, Mom!” I whisper to her again, “Please don’t make me take swimming lessons with her again, Mom. Please.” She kisses my forehead, then Thea’s, and nods.
This story won Second Prize for the Short Story in English in the 2006 Palanca Awards