Saturday, May 10, 2008


I stepped into the shallow end, gradually letting the heated water cover my body. My suit, a speedo, not the least bit provocative, in blue shades of ocean waves, blended in with the dark water.

This time, I swam at night, the first time I've swum at night alone. It's a community pool, open till ten, and that fits with my often hectic schedule.

The first lap was, as always, pure joy. The water flowed over my body, and I felt at home, at peace. Since my first, early days of learning to swim, with my mom's waiting arms outstretched on the other side of the pool, I've been truly myself in the water.

By the third lap, my body had begun to ache in a familiar way. My triceps burned, and I felt relieved. I hadn't hit the pool in over six months, and I had begun to worry that my body would forget what it should know by instinct.

The pain is comforting. My muscles hurt but seemed to be thanking me for waking them.

The pool is small, and in the dark, it's a bit more dangerous to consider flip turns, so I left that treat for another day. But I swam, with my pink goggles squished up on my face. I watched the bottom of the pool as I completed my freestyle laps. I watched the sky and tried to swim in a straight line while using the gawky, awkward backstroke.

The breast stroke is my favorite. I cover ground quickly as I pull my body out of the water, and leapfrog my legs together again. I love the feeling as I shoot my arms forward and glide for a bit under water. I never quite the hang of gliding for as long as I should, but that moment of weightlessness, that one single glistening moment of speeding through the water is worth the effort.

Butterfly. No one ever asked me to swim this in a competition, and the truth is, I'm glad, for I never craved the triangular body of the best of the butterflyers. But I can do it. I can do it if I concentrate on pulling both of my arms up over my head, only to dive neatly back into the water, kicking my legs from my waist. It's a graceful motion, despite the wake of water I leave behind me as I move across the pool. I can do the least amount of this stroke, but that's okay, because my body aches from the effort.

When I finally exit the pool, after two more rounds of the easiest of strokes, freestyle and breast stroke, I can hardly pull myself out. I pride myself on never using the ladder, but as I almost drift back down into the water, I wonder at the sanity of that pride.

The wind has picked up, and I feel it whip around my wet body. I start patting myself dry with the towel I smartly left right beside the pool, instead of six steps away on a chair with my clothes and keys. The wind moves up my body, seeking something it can cling to, for I'm wiping away all of the water it craves.

I pull on a sweatshirt, flannel pajama pants, shakily shove my feet into my flipflops, and slowly walk back to my apartment.

As I feel the wobble in my step, I remember what my high school swim coaches used to say after a race, "If you can walk, you know you had more to give."

I've given my all in this one little workout, and I'm proud.

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