Wet & Wild – Beauty Story

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On October 22, 2014 & posted in Beauty, Editor's picks, Exclusive



In a school that soaks itself in prestige and elitism lies the pride of the community, the Tupper Clarke High School water polo team. The students are prim and proper in classes but are godlike beasts in the pool. A new recruit has trouble fitting in but discovers himself in the pool, drowning out his anxieties and struggle to fit in the new American aristocracy.

Engraved in gold on a plaque hung by the entrance of the William Lee Hutchinson swimming hall were these words: “No man has the right to be an amateur in the matter of physical training. It is a shame for a man to grow old without seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable.” Class of 1939, W.L.H. donated Tupper Clarke High School’s first private swimming pool. He was captain of the swimming team and he had memories of training in the lake that separated Lancaster and Groton. Six in the morning before school, they would warm up by swimming a lap of the lake, followed by a series of long sprints across the lake, changing the type of stroke when they turned around. W.L.H. had, temperature wise, a hot disposition. Cold was a kind of soft; the water felt like silk. After training, he and the rest of team would sit on the grass by the lake and the rays of the sun would flow through into through chlorophyll in the plants and through the pores of their skin.
 
 

 
 

When W.L.H came back from the Pacific front, he went to college and started a shipping company. It operated domestic at first but with military connections and loans, Fairmont shipping went international. He sold the company on his forty-fifth birthday and retired and rededicated his life to his family and appreciation of school athletics. Two years before his passing, he saw over the construction of the Olympic size swimming pool. Since then, the pool had gone through three major renovations: one to increase the platform area for bleachers for spectators, another to install heaters so the pool can be used through winter, and most recently, one to expand the changing rooms and install new showers.

The school had been participating in the elite stratosphere of academics and athletics of the state. Residents of the tri-city area attributed their pride and spirit to their local sports teams. The city did not have a professional sports team; the only sports team that represented them was for basketball but was sold a decade ago. The city had only high school athletics to relieve them of their need for competition and physical expression. Few garnered the amount of attention and awe, as did the athletes of Tupper Clarke High.
 
 

 
 

The most popular and cherished group of athletes was the varsity water polo team of Tupper Clarke. They stood next to each other poolside like a display of bronze Greek statues of idealized men thought only to be ancient. When they flexed, their veins had a perfect bulge that demonstrated the strength in and of their blood. But as visually imposing their bodies were, their movements on land hid their strength. They were the academic elite of the community as well. A handful of them would get in the ivy league schools and Oxbridge partly because of the relationship between the school and the universities, partly because of the wealth of their parents, and partly because they all deserved further education if they wanted it. Their parents would talk about it profusely among one another, otherwise had very little in common and fewer things to talk about.

At least in public settings, the boys knew how to act. They had to wear a white shirt, the school tie, gray slacks and a navy blue blazer for school. The truth was in their shoes; they were only allowed to wear black leather shoes, but they would break within a month for some for playing sports in them or at least displaying many scratches on the top and the sole slowly tearing away from the leather. The shoes of the members of the water polo team however were hardly wrinkled. They didn’t wear them as often as the other students and had that upper hand in, at least, fashion.
 
 

 
 

After school, the new recruit was walking to the swimming hall when the captain called his name.

“How are you feeling for this game, Chris?” James said, leaning down slightly to his eye level.

Chris stopped walking. “Feeling good, chief.”

“I know we’ve been pushing you hard –“

“You mean giving me shit.”

“You’re reasonable for saying that.”

“To be real with you, I feel unwanted. I’mma probably keep score today.”

James pushed Chris. He looked him square in the eye. “We need you today. Coach spoke to me. We think it’s going to be a close one today, so he’s going to put you in after the half to close the deal.”

“You don’t have to do me any favors.”

“I didn’t ask coach. It was his decision.”

Chris took a breath.

“You don’t have to be my friend but you have to be my teammate. I don’t care about your own expectations, but you have to be aware of your responsibilities. You have to be aware of your privilege.”

“What privilege?” Chris said.

“If you’re asking me that question then you better leave this school.”
 
 

 
 

Chris transferred from Grover Cleveland, which was a high school that fit the description of most schools named after presidents: underfunded, controversy ridden, and unsafe, one of the victims of institutional failures and bad luck. He came in on a scholarship after a phenomenal display when he played in the finals of a community water polo league where he scored six goals, four of them in the last quarter to come back from two down. The coach of T.C.H was there and after months of discussion and hesitation, Chris accepted a scholarship to play in a nationally known water polo squad and receive elite secondary education. A shot at college, his mom said.
 
 

 
 

“A shot at college,” he would utter each time he entered the changing room.

Inside was like a part of the School of Athens or a pattern on a Grecian urn. Each team member were creations made with purpose. Each individual cell of their bodies were pushed to their limits effortlessly. Their skin was ceramic, solid and smooth, over seemingly unbreakable bones protected by iron limbs. Each member gave Chris a glance when he entered with James. Some were stoic as they put on their swim gear while others were talking, yelling, laughing – anything to give their restless blood some movement.
 
 

 
 

Walking poolside, the opposing team were already in the water warming up. The bleachers were filled with both students and members of the community. An old couple, one of which was a student at T.C.H. when W.L.H. constructed the pool, drove a few hours to spectate.
 
 

 
 

The game entered the fourth quarter with the opponents trailing by one point. Chris jumped in from poolside. James chased after the ball set center pool to start the last minutes. The ball moved through the air and across the pool like an asteroid thrown by gods. When they swam, the extension of their arms and the white foam of the pool made them look like they were flying with giant white wings of angels. Each splash of water was a violent hurl of wind.

T.C.H. advanced the ball and got into formation. They encircled the defense and were passing the ball around the semi-circle waiting for an opening. An extra pass meant everything. James threw it cross-pool to the right side of the attack and ended up in Chris’s southpaw. A fake hesitation in the shoulders made a defender flinch and go right, and in between the moment of realization and recovery, the ball went through a straight line and into the top corner of the goal, like a spear going through the mouth of a titan.

The game ended and returning to the changing room, some teammates accused Chris of being selfish.
 
 

 
 

“It was a key goal,” James said to Chris in private, when the others left.

“That was really good.”

“It felt good,” Chris said.

“You’ll find your place when we get on with the season.”

James left and Chris stood alone, seeing his reflection on the gold engraving that read, “Generously donated by alumnus William L. Hutchinson.”

 
 

Written by Athena Chen,
Makeup Aki Maekubo,
Hair Kiri Yoshiki using Oribe,
Model Ali Arboux @IMG Models,
Creative direction & Production
Artistic cube inc.

 
 



 

 

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