This is my tale - The Odyssey can take a back seat because this one is going to be epic.
How did the swimming go, you ask? Let me tell you. It was, well, blurry because I couldn't see anything because like so many people out there, I suffer from myopia, and I am extremely near-sighted. So I can only see things clearly when they are a Chapstick's length from my face. Without my glasses, the world is a foggy haze. And so was the swimming pool.
I have been through this before, what with having been on the good ol' Mt. Vernon Swim Team in middle school (back in the day). Only then I at least maybe had a gaggle of fellow thirteen-year-olds to follow. This time, unfortunately, I was on my own.
I get to the locker room. Once I wrestle with a couple lockers and find one that works, Ponds Forge Competition Pool in Sheffield just cannot stop me. I am an unstoppable force. Because I want to go back to maybe not this:
(July 2004 - lifting an extraordinarily heavy backpack in the Egyptian exhibit at the British Museum - could there be a mummy in that or what?)
but maybe this...
(August 2007, my new haircut, and me generally looking how I look)
I walk out to the massive 50-meter Olympic-sized pool. There could be a thousand people splashing around and sauntering at the edge of the pool, there could be millions, I don't know because I can't see. It is a cathedral, almost holy, with such high ceilings, and the diving pool at the back has a springboard that Olympic hopefuls have jumped off in perfect arc form. All I know is I may be the only one wearing a swim cap. Am I the sole person who doesn't want to get their hair wetter than it really, really has to be?
Having squinted hard enough to discover one of the six lanes that has the least amount of people in it, I, the fabeled Butterfly Queen of the Mt. Vernon Middle School Swim Team plonk myself into the water, not realising it must be fifty feet deep. I sink under like a rock, tepid chlorine water shooting up my nose, and come up sputtering, just as a disembodied voice somewhere above me says, Excuse me!
So I look up. My goggles (old) disintegrate off my face, apparently deciding they've already had enough.
There's a woman (I can tell by the voice and the long brown fuzz that is her hair) asking me to get out of the water, that this lane - nay, all four lanes here - are for the Super Swimmers (I could have this wrong because I was too busy choking on water to properly hear her, and if I am, you must forgive me), who seem to be children that are kicking idly, towed behind kick board floaties. There are about two Super Swimmers in each of these four lanes, as best I can tell.
"What are super swimmers?"
"They're the ones that are here seven or eight times a week. You lane swimming?"
She points to the far end of the lanes. The two that are chock-full of people going a mile-an-hour breast stroke. Right. "You can use either of those two lanes. Those are for lane swimmers. One goes clockwise, one goes anti-clockwise. Stick to those ones."
I release a watery drivel of apologies, saying I can't see and didn't know who to ask, yadda yadda yadda.
"They do make prescription goggles, you know."
Yes well that's not going to help me right now is it? I keep my thoughts to myself. My head is swimming, even if I am not.
So I repair my goggles with a very temporary solution (tie it on one side). I slip into the water where, gathering my courage and what's left of my dignity, I paddle in a slow, easy breast-stroke, as this seems to be the dominant stroke of this lane. I get stuck behind a hefty woman.
Now, you have to understand. Exercise is for everyone. But I used to be the Butterfly Queen. Coach Mueller told me so, all those years ago. And without knowing the rules of this place (what is proper ettiquette? Can I swim past someone or am I not allowed?) I lag behind, doggie paddling, for about 46 meters. I am reminded of Stephen King's Carrie:
Calls and catcalls snapped and flickered like billiard balls after a hard break.
And finally, I am past her! Horray! I try freestyle (front crawl to my UK readers) and inexplicably, the water is not breathable. I have lost my endurance after all these land-lubbing years. And so it is me, deep breaths, water rhythm, hand out and stroke the water, kick the water, water, water everywhere.
All goes swimmingly until, after 30 or 40 minutes, the other side of my goggle strap snaps. And I am lost on this sea of exertion.
So I climb out and nearly fall over. The water has sucked the life out of me.
The things we do to get in shape,
probably easier to lay off the chocolate fudge brownies at Starbucks on Monday and Friday mornings, really.
See y'all at the pool next week.