I just had a snooze in my hotel in Subiaco where I can hear the roar of the footy game between Fremantle and Chris Judd. From this mid afternoon kip I have woken with a feeling that I may have uncovered why I am not a person who likes to go swimming. Normally the sensation of water on my face makes me start to panic in a way that is not dissimilar to when earnest arseholes lecture me that the reason "The West Wing" is amazing is because it’s realistic TV. I’ve never truly understood why the idea of rolling around in the surf makes me want to hyperventilate into a weasel as according to all reports I quite liked the water as a kid. Then one day I declared to Mum, nah, I’m not going in and I would come up with any excuse not to. One day I boldly told all my school chums that I’d love to but I was not only allergic to chlorine but sand as well thus ruling out the sea and the pool. How’s the luck on that one? Of course saying that you were allergic is much better than admitting that the idea of your head under water makes you want to scream until you turn blue in the face.
Over the years I have barely thought about it. Sometimes when people find out they do the obligatory, “Oh my Gawd, you don’t swim? That is crazy.” Usually though people move on from the topic so they can talk about themselves leaving me to continue blissfully unaware as to why I won’t do the breast stroke, the butterfly stroke or the "I’m having a stroke" because I’m sinking to the bottom of the pool. I generally stay away from water. The only time I regret not being able to swim is when I contemplate my plane crashing into the sea. This probably shows you some sweet insight into my psyche where I believe I can survive a plane crash Jack Shepherd like only to drown being unable to dog paddle to some mysterious island for safety.
So from my vague slumber I dreamed a memory of being a young boy and reading the Adelaide Advertiser back in a long forgotten time when it was a half decent paper unsullied by Murdock stained fingerprints. My favourite page was the one advertising what movies would be coming to the big screen. These adverts hinted of an amazing world I wanted to visit and I would trawl the content looking for flicks Mum could take me to ranging from classics like “Kiss in the Attack of the Phantoms” to “Flesh Gordon”. (Yes to Kiss, no to Flesh…it took me years to figure out why Flesh was a no go zone.)
The advert I remember the most clearly from a young age? The one promoting the most terrifying movie ever made: "Jaws"! There it was, a giant phallus with teeth zooming up through the water towards an unsuspecting girl (insert lazy St Kilda football club joke here) ready to bite her into pieces that would fit delicately onto Jatz biscuit alongside the cheese, Cabana and gherkins of the 70s. If Freud were listening to this he would probably state: “You’ve always been untrusting of men and this was underlined as a child with no real positive male role models about you. Now here was a massive chomping cock ready to tear through the peaceful sea of life to destroy a woman representing your Mum and women in general”. To which I’d reply: “How did you get into my house?”
I also remember around this time my uncle thought it would be a great idea to take me down to see a Great White Shark that had been caught and frozen in a semi trailer that toured around the country so we could see this ancient predator up close. What a fantastic idea! Here I am an only child with an imagination that could power a small village in Zimbabwe for the next 1000 years and my brilliant uncle figures he should drop a live match into my subconscious. Don’t worry; I got him back by screaming all night every time I drifted off to sleep thinking there was a shark waiting underneath my bed waiting for the first opportunity to chomp off my leg.
I had put all of this out of my memory and just had it drift to the surface and give me a nibble that reminded me of all those terrible dreams so long ago. Between “Jaws” and the adverts for the movie “Meteor” I had enough night terrors to last a lifetime. One scared me out of the water and the other scared me out of living on Earth and gazing into space. Good times!
What a bizarre way to learn something about yourself. I could be wrong though. Maybe a friend dunked me viciously in the pool when I was a kid and I’ve put it out of my head? Maybe I’m secretly Timothy Hutton in “Ordinary People”? Or maybe I just don’t like water on my face?
Either way it has reminded me of the terror of my feet dangling out from under the covers when I’m asleep. To paraphrase Roy Scheider: I'm gonna need a bigger bed.
13th of August, 2011