It is all so crisp and blue.
All so concrete too.
Maybe it is from the hit of chlorine I take as I inflate my lungs until they hurt. The chemicals stinging my nostrils making everything seem clear and hazy all at the same time.
The perfect rectangle azure water hits the eyes first. So beautifully wavy and sparkly against the thick, black lines at the bottom; a permanent reminder that there is a certain way to do things. No room for chlorinated chaos.
Lifeguards lean lazily against the railing around the main pool. Casually discussing the cricket and keeping a relaxed eye across the dots bobbing up and down in the water; only stopping occasionally to shout at children dive bombing each other like little, slippery tornados; lemmings in navy blue swimsuits, toppling in one after the other squealing in delight. Scrambling to race up the pool steps to do it all again.
Behind all the commotion, I squint my eyes towards the turquoise cement rows of steps, stacked at the long side of the main pool. Paint chipped from years of wear and tear as sunbathers lazily lay across them, arms folded against faces to dull the sun's glare. Waiting until enough beads of perspiration have dropped to warrant heading back into the relief of the water.
Lifeless dewy, brown bodies zig-zagging in a pattern across the tired rows, with their towels and bags and children climbing all over them, sticky from whatever cold canteen treat they were able to be bribed with.
Certain parts of the paint are chipped worse than others - revealing layers upon layers of older paint; a kaleidoscope of colours who had their time in the hot sun before the turquoise. I long for just a moment to rip it all back and see what once was.
It is amusing to me that I had the compulsion to, considering what I was also hoping to do here – rip it all back and see what I once was.
I drop my gear on one of the steps and head for the relief of cool water. Laying my head back and springing myself off the side of the pool, I lock in on the colorful bunting flags flapping and snapping above me. Focusing on them suspended; swaying in the air, brings a quite peace despite all of the yells and the splashes and the muffled radio. It all becomes white noise as I focus on the flags and start to move faster.
This place, this lane, is everything right now. I set myself into a familiar rhythm and kick my legs furiously. Clasping; hugging the kickboard against my body as my torso moves from one side to the next. My legs ache and burn, screaming at me to stop. But I don’t. Kicking all of the anger out, kicking all of the hurt as I try in vain to keep up with the golden, tanned swimmer in the lane next to me. Muscles strong and angular as the sun flicks across the beads of water forming on his back. It hurts. It hurts to see what I long to be, to think about it too much – water weighing me and my lack of muscles down. Weighed down by the enormity of it all. The enormity of what I have become, not really sure how I managed to blink and then be here.
I make it to the end for what feels like the hundredth time and turn over onto my front, letting go of the old faded yellow board as I do.Wondering how many hopes and dreams have wrapped themselves tightly around it's middle throughout the years. Break ups, fights, miscarriages, weight loss wins and wedding gowns to fit into to. I am sure it has felt it all tightly grasping at it - scratching it’s buoyant soft rubber, as pieces fall away.
I feel incredible but vulnerable; helpless but determined. Wishing I could just keep up with everyone else. Tired of the bullshit, tired of not being where I long to be no matter how hard I work for it or how much I want it. Despite all of this, I never feel more in control, more competent and more alive than thrashing steadily up and down the lane.
The self talk and the pressure trying it’s best to derail me.
When I was young this was so easy, up and down and back again I would surge. Over and over and over again. Today though it reflects my weakness, my years, my weight, back at me and I have nowhere to hide.
As I swim my mind constantly works as hard as my body does. Nowhere to hide from my thoughts either in here.
Remembering as I keep an eye on the second hand quickening my pace, of how I was once so light and carefree and unchipped. I want that back, I want that back so badly it drowns me. Everyone; everyone my whole life wanting and longing for me to be more which meant to be less.
I feel I fail them all, every single day.
It is an enormous pressure on my lungs as I try to focus on the black lines beneath me. I don’t get sad now though, I get angry, focused – like a fire being stoked. Lane number 5 in the sparkly sun is where magic is happening. I can feel it.
From my toes to my fingertips it feels electric. This is where I have come to let everything bob up and down around me. This is where I am going to be folding it all back layer by layer for good.
I take over two of the swimmers in the other lanes now and there is no stopping me. Despite the burn and the hurt stuck in a lump in my throat. Then suddenly I stop the ferocity and simply float.
An elderly man 3 lanes across, he pulls himself out of the water and slowly moves his way over to the lifeguards; joining in the cricket chatter as he dries himself off, he is here every day too. I am in awe he had the strength to reach up to the silver rounded railings on the side of the pool and hurl himself upward, let alone swim with the gusto he does.
He feels the magic too.
Biding my time and enjoying the bliss filled moment, the colourful flags fluttering above me. It is different this time. I am doing it all for me. This is happening. The pressure is getting kicked and thrashed out of me. Everyday I deflate it a little bit more. It is only a matter of time now. I am less on the inside, yet more full..waiting now for the rest of me to catch up.
As I walk from lane 5 to my towel crumpled between two brown, perfectly sculpted bodies, I catch a glimpse at my much paler skin in a windows reflection. I decide this time though, to sway the less of me in front of them all with a smile.
Watch out everyone, I think to myself.
Stella’s got her groove back.
Emma Kate xoxo