I am in mourning for my other life, the one in which I get up early in the morning; put on my swimming costume, pick up my ready bag full of gear — flippers for feet, hand flippers, goggles, two towels, all-in-one hair and body gel — and head to the pool for 30 to 40 minutes of immersion in a quiet, cold world that is my own and I hate to share.
The flippers are fraying, the goggles are disintegrating, the swimming costumes de-elasticating. The bag which holds them all has been moved from the table at the front door to the cupboard in the spare room to the top most shelf in the passage where the luggage sits. I forget it’s there for days, weeks, months. The disintegration of all my accoutrements continues.
Every now and again I remember that I’m a person who swims. That large bodies of water mean something to me. That this particular form of body use makes me feel very good about myself. That it has made me sane and healthy during the craziest, most stressful periods of my life.
I don’t know why I don’t swim, now.
It might have something to do with the swimming wet suit I was going to buy about eight years ago and never did. I was swimming through winter at the time but when I returned to Grahamstown to the Rhodes pool (unheated, no coverings, no roof) I found that even though I would manage up to 40 minutes in very cold water, no amount of hot showering would heat me up again and I would spend a whole working winter’s day feeling chilled to the bone. I encountered some very serious swimmers — a couple — who told me about the online company who made custom wet suits for swimmers. Unlike normal wet suits these were of thinner material with a great deal of manouvrebility for arms and legs. All I needed to do was measure myself, go on their web page, fill in my measurements, order and pay.
It was the measurements that threw me. The wet suit was expensive and I was very sure I’d get them wrong. There were so many! The circumference of the head; the length from forehead to chin; the span of the shoulders; the breast measurement; waist measurement; hip measurement; inside and outside arms; inside and outside legs; circumference of wrists and ankles. For years I held on to the bit of paper with the website address and periodically I’d visit it and contemplate doing all those measurements.
Now I realise I’ve lost the address. I have no memory of which safe place that piece of paper got put in. I could search for the website but the possibility that I’d find nothing — or millions of possibilities — stops me.