18 laps. Half of a mile.
But you’re not here to talk to during our mid-mile break, and I can feel my emotions threatening to become tangible, tears to join the streams of water running down my face as I pull myself out of the pool.
WHY ARE YOU NOT HERE?! I want to scream.
I MISS YOU SO MUCH! I want to wrap my arms around my body and sob into a hot shower.
COME OUT AND SWIM WITH ME! I want to bargain with the gods.
After you died, I did a pretty good job of keeping to our schedule, swimming twice a week for at least an hour or a mile. As long as I didn’t falter, I was strong. Then I got sick, and after two and a half months without my twice weekly dose of chlorinated therapy, I forgot how to be brave.
Our routine was a comfort, something reliable, a consistent support through the worst four months of my life. And I still needed our routine when I couldn’t abide by our planned and preferred exercise because of my health; I needed it but couldn’t go. The worst still wasn’t over. And a part of me unraveled, crumbled, dissolved.
Without swimming, I’ve been like that person in the desert who hallucinates a glass of water because they need it so much. But I also dreaded the reality of confronting my mirage, of disrupting the vision and discovering the aggravation of sand instead of the cool comfort of water.
Tomorrow marks seven months without you.
So you see, I had to get back in the pool; I’ve been cleared for weeks, but keep talking myself out of going. One more day. What if I start next week? Oops, my ears are hurting again. I’ll go after I spend two weekends installing laminate floors in my house. Just one more day.
You were the one to laugh at me for taking forever to get the rest of my body into the pool when the water was cold. You were the one to split the driving duties, to send me an e-mail, “Hey, we still on for swimming today?” You were the one I looked forward to seeing, to chatting with as we walked to the locker room, to figuring out where we’d go to eat to refuel after our workout.
You taught me that swimming laps could be the best meditation, a remedy to a bad day, an opportunity to share a smile. Without the rhythm of our routine, how was I supposed to get myself to the pool? In the pool? To the wall and back?
Somehow, I convinced myself that there were no more excuses. I parked the car and walked into the building. I located an empty lane. Quickly adjusting my goggles over my eyes, I let my entire body slip into the cool water. I came up once, set my watch, took a breath and pushed off the wall.
One, two, three, breathe. One, two, three, breathe. One, two, three, breathe.
I can do this without you. (I just wish I didn’t have to.)