He's never been able to admit to anyone that he's afraid of swimming pools. Won't go near them. Something visceral in the way his body tenses up. His mind races to find an excuse, some reason to excuse himself.
Gastro had been his go to for years until his mother raced him off to the doctors, who then raced him off to the hospital for tests. They made him to eat radioactive eggs and then do nothing for hours as a machine mapped the eggs descend towards his bowels.
The next day he shat with the lights off, hoping to see fluorescent shit floating. But it didn't glow.
Grace pulls him out of the car and the forty-plus degree heat sears his skin. He asks her if they can talk. In the car.
Back inside with the air-con on, he fumbles for the words.
He isn't sure why he's afraid; he says. She immediately consoles him, telling him they can go home. Or the cinema instead.
No, he says. He loves her and wants to make her happy.
And somehow, the memory floats to the surface. A swimming lesson. He sees he’s being held by the instructor, but he's panicked. She's trying to calm him. He inhales, swallowing the chlorinated water.
And this is it. The moment of his fear. He throws up and the instructor casually sweeps it aside, loose strands clinging together.
She strokes his hair, calming him. Not today, she says. Not today.