Before my toes touch the water, my body knows. My body knows because my brain knows. And my brain knows because I know. This is going to be cold. Every hair on my body tries to leap off, dive for cover, but my skin snags them by the ankle as if to say, “You’re not going anywhere, we’re in this together.”
I plod through the shallows. My feet drag imaginary weights. The dead leaves and bugs (some still squirming on their backs) bob away on the ripples, charted for the piles in the corners of the pool. The chlorine is the perfume of this frigid lover, rising up my thighs, shrivelling parts unseen. This isn’t love.
My bottom half knows something the rest of me doesn’t: it’s not so bad. Like the ghosts of amputated limbs, I know it’s a lie, but I lower my goggles anyway. With the air sucked out from around my eyes, I become part machine. There is no turning back. I fall into it, like a daydream.
The murmur of the water is an answer to the whisper of the air above, a conversation. I think maybe it is talking about me. Leaves float by and turn slowly towards me as if in appraisal. I am an alien, the green water burns my nose. It is acrid on my lips. By reflex, I am sealed tight as a bottle.
But I am here for the resistance. I pull myself through, kick as hard as I can. I see my wake, the debris being pushed aside. I leave something behind each time I come. Skin, hair, oil, the dead parts of me that sink to the bottom. And unnameable things: pain, sadness, loss, the alive parts of me the water smoothes away. When I step back onto the deck, the water dripping and pooling at my feet, I feel the warmth of my blood, the heat of my skin on the towel.