Nolan Goodman, star swimmer for Portland High, meets Mia Swarva at a swim meet and thinks he’s found his perfect girlfriend. They start dating, things are going well...and then he finds out that Mia was born Mark, and his concept of what constitutes relationships not to mention sexuality goes out the window. However, Mia has that certain something about her, and Nolan does his best to understand as he genuinely cares for her. Their relationship develops after a series of stops and starts, but when Mia is inadvertently outed on a social website, she and Nolan have to run the gamut of emotions as well as deal with the inevitable reaction to her being transgender. It is only then, that Nolan learns the true meaning of commitment.
As I waited on the starting block for the electronic timer to sound, a faint whiff of chlorine filtered up to my nostrils. I should have been concentrating on the upcoming race. This race would decide my future. It all lay in a straight line down the lane, there and back. I just had to win.
I should have been concentrating. Instead, my eyes locked with Mia’s, the girl I’d met only a few minutes ago. Green and expressive, they seemed to swallow me up, and she gave a faint nod before...
“Nolan, move your ass!”
* * * *
An hour ago
Bill Minton, my best friend since grade school, Mason Carter, and Tony Gibbons, the other three members on the relay team, stood beside me as we stared at the school of our chief rivals, the Leeside Monarchs. This was the state championships, and as far as I was concerned, it was us against Leeside. The other teams were good... but they weren’t as good as Leeside... and Leeside couldn’t touch us.
Everyone else on the team had already gone ahead and left us to psyche ourselves up for the coming race. The four of us against all the rest... win it all for Portland High.
We stood there at five in the afternoon, our blue and white gym bags beside us. The late November wind cut through my sweat clothes. While the others remained quiet, I tried to keep from throwing up. I never got sick during practice, but every time a competition came up, so did everything in my stomach.
Bill, our leadoff swimmer and the fastest guy on the team, started to bounce on his toes. Tall and slender with a head of close cropped blond hair, his eyes and body were constantly on the go. With him it was move or die. Maybe he had ADD or maybe he just couldn’t sit still. I’d never been able to figure it out.
“We’re gonna rule the pool,” he said, nodding and smiling. “This is our time, our time.”
“You got that right.”
That comment came from Mason, our number two guy on the relay team. Unlike my best bud, though, Mason had dark hair which he shaved during swim season for the cue-ball look. One of his mantras was, “Hey, this induces less drag in the water.”
With large buck teeth, he chewed gum constantly and reminded me of a beaver on amphetamines. That, and the fact that he glared at everyone when talking to them tended to set him apart from most of the human race.
Another of his mantras was winning. “There’s no room for second place,” he always said. “I’m an athlete, an achiever, and I don’t train for second. If you come in second place, you might as well come in last.”
You had to admire the guy for his intensity and commitment, but you couldn’t really like him. Bill once compared him to the exhaust fumes made by someone who’d eaten too many burritos. It made sense.
Tony Gibbons, the third person on the relay team, had to be the quietest guy around. A junior member of the varsity, shy and soft-spoken, he just wanted to swim. He stared at the school in front of us and said nothing.
“Time to man up,” Mason said, cutting into my thoughts. “This is where we win.” As usual, his attitude was intense.
Tough words, but in high school you had to play up your Man Card if you were a guy. When you entered the doors of Portland High, you entered testosterone city. Show your swag. If not, trouble followed.
In addition, you had to be part of a crew. No one actually said it or wrote it down, but internally you capitalized those letters to give them greater importance and meaning. Swim Crew members had to be lean, mean, swimming machines. If you belonged to the Football Crew or the Baseball Crew, you had to be tough. Bottom line, you had to belong. If you didn’t belong to a crew, you were nothing.
Still, man-up display or not, right now my guts were doing a rock-and-roll beat and I couldn’t wait to go inside. I just had my Speedo on under my school sweats, and it was cold. Shivering, I said, “It’s time.”
As we approached the entrance, I remembered Coach Frees talking to me about the race just before we boarded the bus at my school.
“You’ve got the right stuff, Nolan,” he’d said. “You’re not the fastest, but you’re the steadiest. That’s why I’ve got you swimming anchor and that’s what’s going to get you a scholarship.”
A scholarship was like winning the jackpot as my mother didn’t have jack for savings. She worked two jobs, one at an office and one at a packaging plant, and even then, we barely got by. I’d applied for a loan and a scholarship, just in case, although I was counting on the former and not the latter.
This being my senior year, I wanted to go out a winner. Winning meant praise. Winning was something I’d been working for, and today... I was going to own today.