The Slow-Cooked Sentence

A fish out of water

Rachael Conlin Levy
“Swim day” courtesy of smohundro.

Usually, my exercise is a solitary walk with my sleeping toddler, but a few months ago I started swimming, and immediately felt out of my element. There’s a good mix of people who spend their lunch hour swimming laps at the university pool: The strong, young swimmers whose arms slice through the water like knives, the old professors whose bodies can’t take anymore joint-jarring jogs, and then there’s me. During one session, I was flanked by two men who created giant waves that tossed me like drift wood and left me gulping water. Another time, I shared a lane with a woman whose strong, smooth strokes ended in a beautiful underwater flip turn. When I tried it, I ended up thoroughly irrigating my sinuses with chlorine.

I admire the vigor of those college students, but my inspiration comes from the skinny, old women, with their basketball bellies, curved shoulders and raisin skin. The other day one of them asked me to save her lane while she dashed back into the locker to shower. Upon her return, she adjusted her bathing cap, eased herself into the water and thanked me.

“It’s another beautiful day!” she beamed, and swam away.

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