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VARTENA

Dreamed 1986/9/9 by Chris Wayan

THAT NIGHT

I'm back at my old high school, coaching an Italian version of waterpolo called Vartena. It's rowdy and rough. I'm glad I'm just watching. I showed up with a notebook, and so they assumed I was the referee. Not my idea--it's a dream notebook, not a rulebook. I don't even know the rules!

But then, as I watch them, it's obvious they don't either. Or care...

Oh, shit. In the deep end, someone's deep down... and not moving! I dive in, slicing diagonally through the scrimmage, and pull her up. It's my friend Andrea. She's limp. The others ignore me, or don't believe she's really drowning, so alone I push her to the side and drag her out. She's either unconscious or dead. I try to revive her. The others keep ignoring the crisis and play on.

The nightmare goes on and on.

At LAST, I get her to breathe... and she opens her eyes. No thanks to them!

I hate Vartena.

THE NEXT DAY

The San Francisco Chronicle says that at Burlingame High, the next high school over from mine, a girl on the swim team named Angela suddenly just... stopped dead in the water. The coach tried to revive her, but she was dead. For no reason.

Why "Vartena"? I still don't know--I never followed it up to find out if this might be the family's name, or the coach's name--or the name, perhaps, of someone who didn't bother to pull Angela out in time, and is now haunted by that...

Why did I pick this up and dream of it, but move it one high school south, and change the victim from Angela, who I never knew, to my close friend Andrea? I'm not sure... except that I DO identify with Angela's death. Our school was nearly a twin of Burlingame High, and I too was forced to "play" water polo--that is, risk being deliberately held under and murdered if the coach looked away too long. They were big (mostly two years older than me), I was small, and they thought drowning weak little geeky kids is funny... after all, it was never them. "Hey, we're just playing--can't you take a joke?" was their chronic excuse. No one really gets killed, after all. Right?

Wrong. My worst fears were right all along.



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