The Swim Team by Miranda July, 2007
The magic trick:
Casting the reader as the narrator’s ex in the first sentence
We close our summer kickoff/swim week with a wonderful and short story. The way it plays with the notion of identity in such a small word count is remarkable. You leave this story considering how you define yourself, how that definition changes over time and especially how the people in your life change that definition for you. Heavy thoughts. The story does all this via a simple, little trick at the beginning. The narrator speaks to the reader in the second person but then casts the reader as her ex. “This is the story I wouldn’t tell you when I was your girlfriend.” It’s a very subtle but very strong way of declaring independence. And that’s quite a trick on July’s part.
I know it’s difficult for you to imagine me as someone called “Coach.” I had a very different identity in Belvedere, that’s why it was so difficult to talk about it with you. I never had a boyfriend there; I didn’t make art, I wasn’t artistic at all. I was kind of a jock. I was totally a jock – I was the coach of a swim team.