A Woman’s Body

If I could, I would slide out of bed and into the pool.  Every morning at six.  Then the laps.  Thirty six to the mile, half an hour in the cooling flow of water, counting down the distance.

My left hand is getting better all the time.  It used to start the pull too soon.  The timing now is smooth and the stoke constant.  It has taken years of daily swimming to accomplish this.

What a feeling to glide to the wall on the last lap.  Then let the body go.  Let it hang like a sponge while the breathing slows to normal.  While the day begins to form.  And sigh, perhaps, as the arms pull me up and to be in the air once again.  Hands pulling off the goggles and rubing the little creases of the face.  And the feet go under and the legs lift, and I’m back on my feet like we suppose we were meant to be instead of swimming through water like a fish.

I headed for the small pool in the corner where hot water churns at you from all sides.  Good for the circulation, they say.  And I met a woman there, a woman all alone.

She was a friendly woman.  As friendly as you could hope to meet all alone in the hot tub.  Smiling and saying hello and wanting to talk.  Talk I had much difficulty with.

For what held me was the sight of her body.  Her body I tried not to be caught looking at.  But whenever her head turned, or I dared a glance, I did look.  As if I was bound to.

And what I kept seeing was always what I had known at first.  That this was a dying woman.  Of cancer that was somewhere in that body, or everywhere.  A body that looked dead already.  As if nothing was left between bone and skin.

It made me look strangely at the visible parts of myself.  The contrast was disturbing.  I seemed to myself  like someone in the long black limousine passing.  Someone who had it made–a different class of person.  I felt conspicuous, as if I was the one who should hide from view, not her.

And I thought then of whatever trouble had come with me to the pool, then put it away.  As she smiled her bright smile, and chatted about the water, and her friends, and how nice the day was.  Then said goodbye, and rose to leave.  And was painfully beautiful as she made her way.

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