Swimming early in the day makes me cold all day. But not in a bad way. In a way that makes me feel like all my blood vessels are open, completely open and the blood is rushing through my body so fast it has waves and currents. Things and people could get caught up in the vortex.
This morning’s swim with my friend Karen, with whom I have been swimming for thirty-five years, started with my lament that a younger colleague had just gotten a big job, causing me to realize that my career was no longer on an upward trajectory.
She’s only 32, I told Karen.
What were you doing when you were 32, Karen replied, surprising me by reciting my job title and responsibilities.
It’s somebody else’s turn, we chorused. Besides, Karen said, it’s that time in our lives when we’re supposed to go backward, be teenagers, do whatever we want. We’re six months apart but both 67.
We headed for the lanes in the diving area because the regular lanes were full. There were just two lanes and so we started next to each other. We mind our own business when we’re swimming but I always know where she is and what stroke she is swimming. Sometimes we race but not today.
In the diving well next to us, a scuba instructor sits at the bottom. He is 14′ down and several yards over from where I am swimming but it feels a lot like swimming over a nurse shark in the Keys which I’ve done a couple of times. I kept my imagination in check and swam. Then the boys and one girl from a local fire department suited up, pulled on their wet suits, ever so slowly, and then hauled their scuba gear to the edge of the pool where one by one they slid into the water. It was training time.
It made me remember the one time I went scuba diving. It was in a quarry. I was with my boyfriend, an experienced diver, who told me not to go in head first, which I did and so the tank hit me in the back of the head. The rest of the excursion was similarly frightening with my breathing so heavy and fast that I used the air in the tank in a quarter of the time allotted. It was unnatural being underwater and breathing. I hated it.
I thought of that today, swimming laps while watching the fire people, now sitting on the bottom of the pool 14′ down and several yards over. I wondered if they looked up and saw what a fine swimmer I was. I wondered if they had underestimated me, thought I was an old lady. I can swim. I’m not a champion or anything and I don’t go fast but I am a good swimmer. They showed no signs of appreciation for that. To my knowledge, since my goggles fog up leaving much of the external world to be constructed in my swimming mind.
When we got out of the water an hour later, we resumed the discussion about age. On the way back to the locker room, we passed what we call the old folks pool where a dozen people were doing water aerobics. That’s next for us, isn’t it, I asked. Maybe, she said, it’s actually kind of fun.
My friend of the ages.
Do you know how many locker rooms we’ve been in, she asked, reciting them as we walked up the steps to leave the Y.
Later she sent me an email with this picture. I love her for this. Well, I love her for many things. But today, I love her for this.