Carolyn J. Rose
Every day that I can, I hit the pool for deep-water exercise. Sometimes I run and jog on my own. Sometimes I take a class. Sometimes I chat with others while we work out. Sometimes—usually when I’m stuck on a plot problem and want to concentrate—I paste on my I-want-to-be-alone face and attempt to avoid distractions.
Because I stick to a schedule, I run into the “usual suspects,” swimmers who are sticking to their schedules. Some come for the social aspects—generally they talk more than they exercise. Others are more concerned about the physical benefits—they work as hard as they’re able. Some are preparing for surgery or recovering from it, trying to improve or retain flexibility, or hoping to trim flab and build core muscles.
Sometimes I introduce myself. Sometimes they do. Almost always first names only. Sometimes we remain nameless. I think of them as the man with the fierce butterfly stroke, the woman who never stops talking, the man who rests after every lap, the woman who comes with her sister, the man who always has a tan, the woman who either hasn’t read or doesn’t care about the notice asking us to refrain from wearing perfume.
There are some swimmers whose routines have overlapped mine for a dozen years. There are some who come for only a few months as part of recommended physical therapy. There are others who get a new work schedule, move, or head south for the winter. There are even a few who want more than the public facility offers and leave to join a club.
And there are still others who don’t return because they can’t. Because their health has failed. Or worse.
Those are the ones who leave a hole in the water.
Those are the ones who make me painfully aware of mortality.
Those are the ones who make me wonder how many more days of swimming I’ll have before I leave a hole of my own.