man, falling

at the pool, there’s a man with a beautiful front crawl; each stroke flows effortlessly into the next and he breathes on the count of four. his turns are perfectly timed.

at the end of the open swim, he ducks under the ropes, crossing the lanes until he reaches the ladder. that’s when the lifeguard hops down from his tower and stands close by, watching as he hauls himself out of the water. the man has cerebral palsy and his balance is poor.

when the man is stabilized into an upright position, he hooks one hand onto the shoulder of the lifeguard and they walk, in tandem, toward the change room. one solid, one swaying. the man pulls his wandering leg around his body, again and again.

the two men do not speak but they have an understanding born of long experience; they will traverse the slippery tiles into the change room. i do not know how they have reached this understanding.