Two or three times a week, I go to the IUPUI Natatorium after work to swim.
I enter the building, passing vents emitting warm air
smelling of chlorine, a smell from a familiar past, of a dormant skill.
In the locker room, I share space with younger women and girls,
all of whom take their bodies and strengths for granted.
I undress/dress then enter the pool area, where I stand at the edge
of the pool, divided by colored markers into eight long lanes.
Sleek, seal-like people are swimming laps, marking
their progress with long, lazy strokes.
I drop into the pool, where I am enveloped in the cool,
blue water, suspended briefly between realities
of past, future, and now, until the water pushes me upward
to breathe again and to take my place among the others;
I check the clock then join the other seal heads
to begin my own journey.
I find a cadence, stretching and pulling with each stroke.
Water passes over and around me, yet creates a wall
I must push through to get to what I want.
And I do until my body burns and old injuries are searing
from flashbacks to their origins. My body swims
beneath banners hung from the ceiling, images of champions -
Gary Hall, Janet Evans, Micheal Phelps, and Dara Torres -
whose brilliant smiles belie the tortuous work
required to reach their goals.
Up and down, back and forth I go,
remembering to remember to keep my body straight,
a blueberry trying to become an arrow in the water,
doing the thing I fear to work towards my goal;
tired of being invisible, I work to shed my gray cocoon.
As I climb the ladder, music plays in the background,
Ray Charles' "You Don't Know Me," and I leave to
dry my wings in the late afternoon sun.