I remember it vividly. I was probably three or four years old and I was at swim lessons.
I took the classes with the love of my life; Matt Something. I liked his little golden bowl cut and his 5 year old masculinity.
Swim lessons, however, I hated with a passion. I was the youngest, and the slowest, and the most afraid. I didn’t like the water, I didn’t like the way the water felt in my ears, I didn’t like competing because I didn’t like losing, which I managed to do every time without fail. The only thing I was good at was being the last one to retrieve a starburst from the depths.
The worst part was I was in the same class as my sister, and she was fearless. She dove beneath the surface with reckless abandon, awkward and gangly limbs flailing, beating all the boys to the other side.
I hated her, too. She made me look slow in front of Matt.
My only salvation was the popsicle we were sometimes gifted at the end of class, which I savored on the deck, recovering from the trauma I just endured. A consolation popsicle.
So this one day Valerie is effortlessly experiencing a particularly excellent class, whilst I struggle to maintain respiratory obligations at the very least. I’m left behind in every game, every race, every dive through the stupid yellow hula hoop. I come up empty handed in the starburst event, despite everyone else’s abundant spoils.
I am not happy.
The class mercifully ended and I was standing on the deck wrapped up in my towel.
I decide I’m going to tell Matt I like him. That will make me feel better after this demoralizing lesson. I’ll just tell him I like him and he’ll tell me he loves me too and he wants to marry me. That’ll work.
I scope him out sitting on the grass with a few of the other, less attractive little boys.
“Matt, I like you," I managed to choke out. Very poetic.
“Oh. I like Valerie”
I don’t know if the sound I heard was my heart shattering or my blood pressure reaching a hundred million. I turned as diplomatically as I could and ran somewhere to pop a squat and cry.
The adults must’ve sensed my agony because I was then told I would be receiving a popsicle.
There is a god.
When presented with said popsicle I was horrified to realize the one with which I had been bestowed was grape flavored.
Nasty, purple, reject grape. The slow sister of popsicles. In my depression over this discovery I hung my head in sorrow and despair. It was at this point that I noticed a stinging sensation on my knee. I opened my eyeball to see HALF OF AN ANT STICKING OUT OF MY KNEE.
It was only half of an ant because the other half was INSIDE MY KNEE SUCKING OUT MY BLOOD.
Terrified, I brushed my knee with my hand in attempt to dislodge my attacker. Instead, I succeeded only in breaking the ant in half, leaving the other half inside my knee where I’m sure it still remains.
I sat on the floor somewhere and cried while my sister flirted with my one true love. I vowed I would never forget this day as it was the worst day of my young life. And the worst day it remained.