Skipping Laps

The following short-story was adapted from an assignment in First-Year Composition at Arizona State University under Dr. Valerie Finn.

I joined the sea of five-foot-eleven goofy footed quazi-swimmers marching towards the commanding general known as the swimming instructor. The midafternoon sun began to hide in the shadow of the swimming instructor as he rose and began to call off names. I froze on the cold connecting concrete and forget my name. I thought “who am I again?” He called out, “Zion Basque! Number 127.” I remembered that I am number 127. I circled to the end of the army submerging one by one into the icy artificial ocean. The wind howled and a stomach morphed shiver ran up my spine and spun out in my shoulders. I heard the clock lose a second and instantly the line cut in half, leaving clones to take the place of the now emptied lanes. I, nearly shaking, approached my lane as the instructor called, “number 127 begin.”

The burning smell of chlorine hit me before the water. The student counters at the edge of every lane continued to take tally of the surpassing swimmer’s laps. My counter stared at my immobile legs and wondered why I had not begun, so I kicked off the pool wall and made paddling motions with my arms like the kid in the lane next to me. He had the same colored shorts as me, gray. He looked like he knew what he was doing, taking long strokes, moving parallel to the line, head under water. He had perfect technique. I tried to keep up with him as I dipped my head down and then to the right and back, grasping for air as he picked up speed. He quickly left me behind to join the others in their speedy escape. I continued to slap the water with my flailing arms to get to the other side of the pool and gain ground by pushing off the wall again. I knew I made it to the other end of the pool when I hit my head on the edge. No one noticed, not even my counter. I continued my journey of return to find myself back at the start faster than I had left. One. I only had to complete 12 full laps to pass. I turned around and began again. I kept my face low in the water, keeping sight of the ever-flowing lines of the pool floor. The water around me was cold but my body was warm. Heat filled my shoulders and spread through my chest as oxygen continued to leave. Two. I pushed and pulled water to levitate myself from sinking into the oblivion.

My weight did not help me as I lopsided my body; I only stayed afloat due to my speed of thrashing. The water around me began to shutter with the movement of the other one-hundred and twenty-seven faceless follower’s completing laps in record time. I am not like them. I break my laps at my own pace. Four. The laps felt like they were getting harder now. I lost all the original stamina with which I entered. I heard a robotic student voice call, “127, you have 10 laps remaining.” My brain struggled to verify basic arithmetic for a moment but then I counted four. Maybe the counter would realize the error in its math. I pushed forth onto the next lap.

I carried my body above the water and watched the earlier rigid lines become slippery like a snake. The pool lines whipped and hissed as I drew closer and closer to sinking. I thrashed a little harder to see if anyone would notice my good effort like all the other kids. Once I got to the wall again I looked around. Seven. There were only four swimmers left in the pool. I thought “what happen to the army?” My body struggled to respond to triggers in my tendons to move. I forced a flop out of my arm and a kick out of my leg—enough for me to get away from the wall and submerge my head into the darkness of the water. The red and blue floating lines flashed at me like lights down a tunnel. One flashed for me to go, and one told me to stop. They flashed in perfect unison until I took my eyes off the lane for a second to check on the snake below me. He struggled around the floor of the pool looking for any victims to pull into his chocking grasp. He slithered away because he only found me. Seven. Radio static phased the words “127, only 11 laps left.” I stopped believing the hard-boiled machine blurting fake commands to me. Eight. I struggled a little more in the grasping water and its venomous clutches around my body and I wondered when I would be done with the next lap, but if I could stop for breath because I was starting to lose full use of my lungs causing my head to go light, then I could swim faster and escape this eternal hell. I was out of breath. I breathed heavy. I coughed water into my lungs and received new oxygen. The darkness at the bottom of the pool saturating the sun slowly wrapped its grasp around me and begun to dictate where I swam. I swam into oblivion. I swam forever. Whispers from the void asked me “what’s your number.”

I remembered. I’m number 127. The next in line and the last to leave. I dragged my legs looking for motion but the murky water kept me still in the movement and carried me from one wall to another. Ten. I felt the slashing lights of the lane screaming for me to stay focused on where I was going. The void wanted me to stay here forever. Alone. I screamed for help, but water rushed my mouth and filled my lungs with pain. I thrashed harder and faster. I kicked my legs towards the sky and looked for an end goal. The sun emerged a little more and fought the darkness log enough for me to see a wall. The wall. I remembered why I was here. I fought the pain in my arms and legs to reach something I could hold. I grabbed for the wall with the last strength in my arms and pulled myself towards it. Eleven. I only had one more. I aligned myself to kick off the wall when an arm grabbed my wrist and pulled me above water. He was brown and poorly designed. He already broke protocol. His static voice changed to clear words as he said, “BOY who was your counter?!?” I didn’t know what he was talking about until I realized he and I were the only ones in the entire pool. I stuttered to try answer but the lack of air made me jumbled. He stated, “you’re done. you must have completed over 20 laps by now.” All I wanted to do was finish my last lap. I stumbled out of the water and wobbled to my knees on the concrete grasping for air as the world faded around me.

25% Completionist

I think it goes without saying that it has been an eventful year (both academically and annually). As a student, our years are often broken into segments of 9 months—those which are summer and those which are not. Basically, school is a long series of summer and not summer. Regardless of the layout, I think a quick trip down memory lane is required—at least so I know I did not sit at my computer the whole year.

This year began at a blistering heat of 115 degrees, also known as the “Tempe Norm.” Heat bounced off the slow melting concrete and waved past my ever so slightly churning stomach. The heat did not stop me from climbing the historic A Mountain and making my literal mark on ASU. As a near fetus perceived Freshmen, I once again peered into my new city of a home. It was hot and crowded, but I loved it.

It’s hard to think that just a year ago I was in high school dreading my not so known future. The murky colored future quickly became maroon and gold as I learned to live in this hot and moving city. Whilst learning to once again step to the sound of academics, I was lucky enough to be joined by a group of quirky-geek-bound Computer Science majors interested in nerding out with me. They’re alright. They’re also the closest thing I have to a Arizona family.

[](https://www.thelandofzion.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/3.jpg)
The geek squad
[](https://www.thelandofzion.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/4.jpg)
UCSB tour with the haxors

 

 

 

 

Supported by my strange friends, I was able to join my very first research lab. It was challenging, destroying, intimidating, inspiring, accepting, and enjoyable—all at the same time. I’m fortunate enough to be able to work in a place I love everyday. I really need to write about it… The research led me to find the pwndevils, the hacking team I compete in. Never in my life have I found a smarter group of computer scientist.

A disguised lumber jack

As the year moved forward, I was fortunate enough to have my favorite person in the entire world visit me. Emma and I had a great time getting fat at a pseudo Hawaiian barbecue near my dorm—yes I said dorm, its pretty nice. Emma got disguised in her ASU gear and supported the Sun Devils at our crazy ASU v. U of A football game. We won. It was spectacular.

As the temperature cooled in Tempe, it froze in Flagstaff and Colorado. I was able to spend time with my family in Hawaii. I was able to spend an awesome Winter with my Dad and then my Bae. It was truly amazing to reconnect with the people I loved.

Less fetus couple on snow honeymoon

With a reinitialized fire for research, I was able to take a trip to Santa Barbra with my research lab. I hosted my first Capture the Flag hacking competition, iCTF. It was interesting to connect with other hackers around the world. I’ll post about it. I was honored to represent ASU internationally through the Web hacking community.

Fast forwarding to March, I turned 19 and was able to have Emma and the nerd squad take me out to dinner. It was an awesome Korean BBQ place called Gen. It was amazing as usual. I then spent the next month after march busting my butt to somehow finish all my finals projects and wrap up the year with a good ole’ fashion four-o. ANNNNND we are here, the present.

I learned a lot this year about computer science, but even more about myself. Similar to this post, the year felt like it flew by in the span of a few seconds. Life in school passes by faster than Christmas morning—one moment you’re staring at every gift you’ve been presented; then suddenly you the mystery and the morning is over. It seems like it is always better to imagine what’s in store, then to actually find it.

An Asian version of Zion

I regret not posting more this year, but I hope to make up for it in the next few days, as I spam your emails with updates. As always, thanks for reading, and subscribe below if you want to fuel my non-existent writing career.

I would also love to hear how you’re life is going, just hit me up with a comment. Hope all is well.

 

Peace family

-Zion

Arizona Rain

I didn’t know it rained in Arizona. The desert-dried city of Tempe never passed me as a town of slow moving, still-falling rain. The rain has its way in the city: the cars move a little slower, the people are a little quieter, and the building finally sit still. The city is darkened, but there is a hidden light.

I love the rain. I sit at my bedroom window and enjoy the past. I think about the life I have lived in Hawaii and the life I am living now. From windowsill, it all seems interconnected. I watch as the rain drips down on the people whom find the day gloomy, but I really think some happiness can be found in the still.

I think we could all use a moment of stillness. When the rain falls, I like to think about the moving parts of my life—the future—because the rain gives me a chance to be present. Often, I, and most college students, are dead set of the outcomes of the small things in our lives. The campus moves quickly, and we forget what is behind and in front, or at least I do.

Understanding why I am here and where I am going is something I struggle with now-a-days. I constantly move day-to-day just trying to make it through my next assignment. It’s in the little moments of my day, like right now, where I can truly sit and understand how I got here. I theorize on the improbable future I will have as an awesome super hero hacker, and I picture the happy moments I’ve had with my family.

The rain takes me back to a chilled room in my childhood. I remember the blue cotton sheets, furry and soft, of my grandmothers bed. I would lay in the king sized, conformed bed and listen to the daily Jazz my grandmother played. The girl from Ipanema goes walking, and well, I sit on my butt and watch the drizzling clouds. The sky is baby blue-damp tempered and cool. Not a single sound can be heard by the Jazz. The world is still.

I envision my future home. It sits on the side of a hill, similar to my Kona home, and I watch the rain drizzle in the same cooler fashion. Dave Brubeck plays, and I take five. The world is again still. My past, present, and future interconnect in a single moment. The rain helps me connect the pieces.

The rain really is beautiful. I know it may not seem like that now, but taking a step back from it all can open your eyes to a happier life. The rain is not around often in Arizona, nor is it in life. The rain is rare, so enjoys its clarity in stillness. I know I do.

Talk to you soon family.

-Zion