Rinsing Off, Racing the Ceiling

After I stuffed a bunch of thick sweaters in my Alaska-bound bag, I went to the pool to wash off the residue of moving. I've never understood how so much dust can get into closets and boxes laying dormant. Some of the sweatshirts I haven't worn for a while were covered in what looked like chalk when I packed them. I was thinking about the gravel walk to the Sheldon Jackson pool in Sitka, and then I was thinking about the deep, long pool at Tulane that echoed with the sounds of slammed basketballs and summer camp kids flapping in the shallow water across the room. I have a hard time thinking about water and not getting in it.

So I went to Wash Park, where I go to float and feel like my legs work right. Tonight, I shared a lane with a woman who decided not to respond to anything I said to her, who left after ten minutes of kicking, then a man who never took a breath because he had a snorkel on, and then a girl younger than me with braided friendship bracelets and cartilage piercings who apologized for her slowness by saying, "I'm usually faster, but I just popped my neck out." ?

The deep end at Wash Park is ten feet, which is the depth I used to bob down to when I needed to warm up at swim practice. One bob down to the bottom and back just makes you hurt and feel crawly-cool. Five bobs, and you start to remember why you like swimming beyond the immediate, almost bad feeling of being submerged. Ten, you're completely warmed up and used to the tension between air and water and when you need one or the other. Tonight, I didn't do any bobs, but I noticed that sitting on the tile T in ten feet of chlorine was a sunken black brick--the kind you have to hold above your head while you tread water during lifequard training class. I hate those bricks. I hate even seeing them.  I wanted to go get it.

So I did a flip turn with the intent to rescue the weight, and guess what. When I got to the deep-end, the thing was gone. Like that. I hovered above the center of the lane like a jellyfish. I know I was hovering like a jellyfish because I was thinking that the way my legs were moving was the way a jellyfish would maintain one position. Jellyfish used to wash up onshore at the Grand Isle beach and I hated and loved seeing them. That's how I felt about the there-then-gone brick. I didn't really want to go down and get it, but then I guess I really did.

I know that the man with the snorkel couldn't have breathed that far down, and I'm pretty sure a girl with a popped neck wasn't going to bring a weight up to the deck. Not to mention, they had both already left. But stranger things have happened in the Wash Park pool. An African almost drowned in my lane one day. A skinny lady told me when we were in the shower that she knew other swimmers feared her. There's one lifeguard who texts so often, I was swimming laps for an hour one morning and he never once made eye contact with the water. I know because I kept checking on him to see if he was checking on me or anyone else. One of my biggest fears is having to save a large man who has a heart-attack in a pool, and I can't lift him up to the surface.

But no one drowned, and I had washed all the chalkiness of transition off at the end of my set. I know why one of my brother's professors said that if every person swam every day, the world would be a better place. As I was cooling down, the sun was getting gray, and I raced an airplane across the skylights. By the time it reached the dusty frame of the last window, we had tied.