Yesterday I arrived a few minutes early at the local Rec Centre where I sometimes like to go swimming over the lunch hour. I changed and showered, and then had to wait with a few other swimmers at the door to the pool, which was still locked. I had never been there right at twelve before, and when we were finally let inside, the water was still and flat like a mirror. It's a good pool. The lifeguards are friendly and play a variety of music. The other swimmers are mostly guys from the steel mills who make it out on their lunch break. Some of them are very dedicated swimmers, cutting speeds through the fast lane that I could never sustain for longer than a half a length or so. I keep to the medium lane, where I am generally a little faster than the other two fellows who are often swimming there.
Perhaps owing to the good weather outside, the pool wasn't very busy, so I had a lane to myself. That is, until I realized that I was sharing my space with an insect. As I approached the shallow end I noticed a small black beetle who had been swept to the side of the pool by the tides and was struggling to gain some footing on the slippery tile below the coping. With some small difficulty, I managed to get the creature onto the back of my hand. I then climbed out of the water using my free arm and legs.
"You found him!" one of the young female lifeguards was brandishing her yellow flutter board as if it were a shield. "Keep him away!" I couldn't understand what all the fuss was about. The insect was a fairly small, definitely harmless beetle with a metallic blue-black carapace that changed colour when you tilted it in the light. As I examined the bug, I noticed that one of his antenna had become looped into a tiny knot, perhaps due to the creature's frantic exertions in the pool.
"We were late opening the pool today," the lifeguard explained, "because we couldn't get that bug off of the buoy line." I really like insects, so I have trouble understanding the irrational fear some people have of them. But the little fellow had made me the temporary hero of the pool: the saviour of the lifeguards from the perilous black beetle. I carried the thing to the far end of the deck and, opening one of the emergency doors, released him out into the sunlight. He didn't seem to want to leave the perch of my hand, so I had to shake him off. But before I did so, I noticed that his antenna had somehow righted itself, and was now wavering alongside its twin, like a tiny filament feeling out the dangers and possibilities of the ever-changing moment.
It's amazing that life can make house in such fragile, complicated structures. I don't suppose that I'm much different, for all my bones, skin and eyelashes. Maybe I'll be an insect in my next existence, if not sooner.