Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Someone had a photograph of a woman with a carrot in her vagina. This was the day of the school swimming carnival. I never participated in sport, bringing notes from my mother to make sure that I would be exempt.
This day, however, was a hot day, a languid summer day smelling slightly acidic like the juice of an ant squashed between your fingertips.
I have always loved to swim. I swim very slowly but I can swim for hours at a time without tiring. I love the breathy rythm of it, the way the surface of the water creeps above your ears, obliterating the world.
I signed up for the 200 metres.
I lay on a towel in the sun.
There were whispers about the photograph before anyone had seen it. Apparently the red-haired boy had it in his bag. I thought about how it would be to put a carrot in my vagina. I thought about how I smuggled candles into my bedroom sometimes and used those late at night when no one could see me. I knew it would be the same as using a carrot, but somehow the idea of a vegetable inserted into someones vagina was something that played on my mind.
I thought about how if she had a photo taken, then there would have to have been a photographer watching her insert the carrot into her vagina. I wondered if he had watched her do it, if she had gone into the next room like an artists' model and emerged with the carrot properly inserted, removing the light cotton sheet from around her shoulders, then lying or sitting with the carrot artfully arranged on the divan.
My race was next. I had never been in a race before. I had never worn my swimmers in front of my peers. I wondered suddenly if I should have signed up for the race at all. I still had the note from my mother, but would it now be too late to table it and have myself scratched from the starting block?
I was wondering this when someone brought me the photograph. Not a real photograph, but a picture of one torn from a magazine. Sepia. Old. It reminded me of the elegantly posed portraits of our great grandmothers. Only this grandmother was not wearing any clothes and there was a carrot in her vagina.
I needed to take my school dress off. I was wearing my bathers underneath. Everybody else had already changed into their bathers and lay in the lazy spread of the hot bleachers or flat on their backs with their knees spread to make an even tan. I could never lie like that. I folded the photograph into the novel that I had been reading, even though Wendy Jones was waiting to see it, and stashed it deep inside my schoolbag. I didn't want to remove my dress in front of everybody but they had called my race and everyone else was already standing near the edge of the pool. I pulled the sack of check fabric over my head. The corner of it snagged on my glasses. New ones, pink government issue glasses with little upward curls at each edge. In a few days I would lose them as I always did and it would be six months before I could get a new pair. I wondered when my mother would tire of replacing them. I folded them roughly and shoved them in beside my novel. They would be more scratched. They would be bent. They would be almost ready to lose when I took them out once more.
I stood at the starting block. The other girls wore bikinis. Bikinis were big that particular year. The other girls had sleek flat chests and skinny hips. I was too round. I was aware of my new breasts which were already so large that you could hold a pencil under them. I had read about this in someones magazine. Are my breasts too floppy? And of course I had answered the multiple choice questions when no one was looking.
I missed the starting gun but I plummeted anyway, a moment's delay and then the fat slap of water, the bliss of underworld oblivion. I thought about the woman with the carrot in her vagina. Did the cameraman adjust the carrot, moving it a little this way or the other, pushing or pulling. I wondered how these things could be orchestrated. I wondered if the woman had family, if she told her mother about the photographer, if she married him or perhaps had children with him, or if the photographer was a woman. Would it be easier to have a woman moving your carrot a little further in, a little further out. I wondered about the hundreds of people who had seen this photograph since then. I thought about that woman with the carrot and her ability to bring a whole new generation of new teenagers to orgasm. I wondered whether the red-haired boy had masturbated using this picture, and if I also masturbated using it, would that mean that the red haired boy and I could be lovers.
I saw the blue tiled wall approaching. Half the race run. I kicked and my arms windmilled and I reached out for the tiles, felt them beneath my fingers. Was about to turn and head for the finish line when I felt a hand on my shoulder.
I bobbed to the surface panting. One of the teachers was leaning into the pool and tapping my head. My tight wiry hair had spilled out from the neat plats. There was a waterfall of hair in my eyes but I could see that there were no other swimmers in the pool. The others had finished their race. I was only half way through.
I gasped, found words, realised I was quite puffed. I had held my breath for quite a way. I always found it difficult to coordinate my breathing with the flailing of my arms.
"I can finish." I gasped. It was only another 100 metres.
"They're waiting to start the next race. You an get out at this end now. Better not hold the races up."
I nodded, ducked under the little coloured floaties marking the lanes. I emerged from the pool in my one piece swimming costume and every one was watching me. I knew that I should be embarrassed, but I wasn't. I sat with my towel and my school bag beside me and the photo of the woman with a carrot that I would sneak home and stash under my bed at home. I had just procured my first piece of pornography. There would be more.