Tuesday, November 05, 2013

200 meters

image via NWI Times
Go away. Everything needs to go away. The scene in this place. The voices echoing off the tile. Especially the few that call my name. And the guy to my left, and the guy to my right. Go away. There just needs to be me and the fifty meters of chlorine filled blue water that stretch in front of me, seven feet wide, and the tone that I’m waiting for.

I just want to do ok. You know? I just want to do ok. There are people watching me. Somewhere up in the balcony they’re there. And if I’m ok, they can get me out of here.

There it is, and I’m off clean, and falling into the liquid world, and slipping under and now there’s the perfect time, the long glide and even when I start kicking I’m still in sea mammal mode and I’m way past the third of the pool mark before I need air and start the stroke. Today it just feels right, barely any break between the water below and the air above as I count myself into the first turn, dive, circle, kick and twist and I’m pulling myself back the other way and I slip into my dreamland in the softness of the blue, this easy world where the sounds are distant rumbles and the lights waver quietly and it’s just me and what my body can do.

When I start to come out of that state I’ve gone three laps and made the last turn and I’m starting to dig through the last forty meters. Now that bigger world starts to intrude. Now with every stroke I think of where the other swimmers might be. I think of places I’ve never seen or really imagined: East Lansing and Raleigh and San Antonio. I think of being in a place where no one knows me. Where no one knows all the ways I screw up. Where I can start all over, as clean as when I climb out of this pool.

And with all that I feel the water get thicker, but I feel myself start to rise up and fight. My arms drag massive chunks of water and force me forward. I start to know that there are no wakes kicking back toward me from the lanes on either side. I think I hear a voice yelling to me, saying “come on, you’ve got it.”

The end of lane marks are there, and I reach and touch. Then let myself sink, deep into the silence and safety until burning lungs force me to the surface. Cam grabs my hand and holds it up. The guy from Hempstead ducks under the markers and grabs me and says, “fuckin’ a.” I mumble thanks and dunk myself again, all the hours I’ve spent hiding from my life in water like this, all the times I’ve wondered about disappearing into it, about just not coming back up for oxygen, and maybe now it all can carry me away.

I come back up. The clock shows the best time I’ve ever swum. I climb out, wrap myself in the towel Cam hands me, and drift off into a corner, dropping onto a chair. They’ll come find me in a few minutes. They all will. And that’ll be ok. Because now I know where the door is.

(c) copyright 2003, 2013 by Ira David Socol