I have been learning to swim
It is not a natural thing for me
There is no rhythm
No ease of effort

I am an awkward animal
Not built for underwater propulsion

My goggles fog-up quickly from nervous heat
And sometimes create an image
In the lane just next to mine
Of a person’s legs, underwater
Who is not there
I get to the end of the lap
And rub the inside of the lenses to
Wipe away potential hallucinations

Tonight I share a lane with a stranger
As kids have occupied the rest of the pool
Adults are here for more boring reasons like exercise
So we defer to those involved in more important tasks
like play

She slips in
Sets up her water bottle, her kickboard, her flippers and a thing i don’t have a word for
And i feel like a girl at the 8th grade dance
I don’t know where to put my arms or legs
So i sink down deep into the water
I hold the ledge
To hide
I bubble of the top of the water

She says

And she pushes off and settles in immediately
to a delightful, musical,
Water-slappy kind of swim
I watch her and mimic her arms
In the dry open air

I wait for her turn around
And head in
I’ve got it, for a length
Or at least i think i do

When we pass one another
I think i feel her heat
Pushing out from her strokes at me

Her tiny waves make me aspirate
Chlorine water

I cough it up under the surface
And come up the next third stroke
Pretending to be okay
Making a terrible gasping sound

There is something peaceful and horrible about breathing out underwater
For three strokes at a time
There is some pearl of zen in there
That i cannot seem to crack open

I see her collecting those pearls
While i flounder
Cannot help but feel jealous

The second time we pass
I am overcome so much by the pressure
Of her waves
That i indulge in fantasy
And as i propel in her opposite direction
I drift off into a place where

I am swimming underneath her
Facing up towards her underwater-mouth
Like a smaller fish docking onto the safety of a whale’s belly
No names
No history
No future
No friendship
No love affair
Only feeling not speaking
Warm wet bodies locked together
Long enough to require
Gasps for air

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