Ever since the five star destination spa experience, I’ve been going to the pool—a lot. As a card-carrying Virgo who usually likes to have my feet firmly planted on the earth, this willingness to submerge myself in water is unusual. I’ve never really understood the draw of water. Sure, I quite like having showers, so as to get clean, and watching the rain, so as to daydream, but when people say things like “I love being in the water,” I don’t really get it because the highest compliment I could ever pay to being in a body of water is that it’s pleasant. And if I’m being completely honest, the thought of getting into a pair of swimming togs has never thrilled me. The anxiety of being practically naked in front of other people—even though the same people are practically naked themselves—reignites every summer. I know from experience that this anxiety dissipates into pointlessness once I get to the pool or beach because I then see all sorts of humans in all sorts of shapes and forms but somehow, I manage to forget this reality every year. But, it’s getting easier, I’m getting better.
I’m also getting better at swimming. When I first started going a couple of months ago, I realised that I didn’t really know how to swim. Or, I should say, I didn’t know how to swim as an adult; the last time I swam with any sort of regularity, I was in primary school. So, I knew how to swim like an eight-year-old but not like all these people around me, who seemed to be doing this effortless gliding-through-water thing, their mouths yawning open at precise intervals, Olympics-style. At first, I wondered if this was because it’s an Olympic-size swimming pool but then some of them, particularly the ones with magnificent shoulders and teeny tiny swimming trunks, probably are training for the Olympics. It was a bit intimidating, especially since it took a long time before I could swim a full length without panicking in the middle of it that I may not make it to the end. It took some flailing but I got there, eventually.
Now, I can do six laps with the notion that I could do two more, if I wanted. I still feel awkward, like I’m not part of my own species anymore, my body in a strange perpendicular angle to the ground, moving through water instead of air. Speaking of air, sometimes I feel like I’m not getting much of it in at all, that it’s all being bubbled out into the chlorinated water. But, it’s this bubbling I like because it takes all of my concentration and for a short while my mind is blank and all my sadness has no choice but to trail behind me.
Since I usually swim at night, though, I can’t help but get interrupted by the memory of this song, a song so old it’s got an oboe solo.
PS: This is a nice essay on swimming.