I can’t remember the last time I walked into an aquatic centre. The thought of swimming in this old body is overwhelming, just like when I bought these ghastly swimmers in the department store weeks ago. I’m still mad with the woman who sold them to me. My legs look like road maps, all these varicose veins no one wants to see, especially me!
My legs ache as they bend and moan, moving from beneath the steering wheel, a grimace comes across my face with the pain.
‘This better be worth it’ I mumble to myself, cursing the physiotherapist who recommended swimming as part of my ‘Program toward rehabilitation, part of your next chapter.’
‘Next bloody chapter’ I thought at the time, ‘I’m too old for more chapters.’
Feeling disgruntled, I hobble over towards the building. It is significant, old and sophisticated, intimidating even. These pools were once known as bathhouses, my Granny swore it was the reason behind her longevity.
‘Why couldn’t I get her fish genes for my twilight years? God know’s it would have helped,’ I think to myself.
Walking inside I am nearly knocked down by a small boy screaming at his mother wanting a lolly.
‘I’d want a lolly too kid if my mother made me go swimming’ I say to him.
The kid looks up at me like I’m ancient, I feel ancient.
‘Thanks’ says the woman glaring at me.
‘Just wait until she is old and incapacitated’ I think to myself, I scowl at her, walking off, fed up with myself before I begin.
Pushing the gate open to the central pool area my heart begins to flutter. Once upon a time, I enjoyed swimming, when I didn’t have the outside lining of this weathered body. Who was it that I used to swim with as a teen again? Quite a hunky guy? I remember Vince with the dreamy blue eyes. I smile with his memory. The smell of chlorine becomes intense, almost making my nostrils burn and with that, the memory vanishes – like so many others.
I find the entrance to the hydro pool, opening the door, the handle is cold. Tall columns stand before me, lining the pool with a fountain at the end, it looks Roman. I feel transported to Europe.
‘Maybe this isn’t such a bad idea after all?’ I think to myself.
Balconies with white wrought iron balustrades holding potted palm trees line the second story. ‘I wonder how they water them?’ I begin to daydream about the land of gardening – my happy place – when suddenly I am jolted back to reality. The door opens, I feel hot air flow over my weary body. An elderly gentleman walks in, nods his head, smiling at me.
Placing my belongings on one of the many red chairs, I look solemnly at the water.
Why was I finding this so damn hard?
Feeling incredibly self-conscious, I breathe deeply, but no one even seems to notice my existence.
I put on my floral swimming cap. My granddaughter insisted I wear it, ‘It will make it more fun Granny’ she said, I smile at the thought of Mia and her chubby little 4-year-old cheeks. I wonder if I could find a matching one for her and maybe, once my rehab is over, I would take her to the pool- that is, if I end up liking it.
My feet touch the water, I feel a surge go through me as my mind floods with memories of my youth and the times we would swim at the beach or creek. Maybe if I had
Feeling growly again, I take another step, then another until I push myself out into the water with a force I forgot I had. Feeling the water against my skin is a pleasant surprise. For the first time in years, my hip no longer aches. Gliding through the water, I instantly felt a surge of peace fall over me. Closing my eyes, I breathe in the pleasure of a pain-free body, oblivious to any other swimmers in the pool, until I bump into something hard. Opening my eyes, I realise I’ve bumped into a man, the same one who came in just after me. I’d somehow managed to make my way across the pool instead up and down.
‘Oh, sorry.’ I say trying to quickly move away, through my body can’t zoom off like it once did, more like a slug inching its way forward.
Smiling meekly at him, I nod and keep up my slug style escape.
Floating around my body becomes even more prune-like, but as much as I enjoyed my moment of a body pain-free, it’s time to get back to reality and feel the heavy pull of gravity again against my aching bones.
Finding my towel and belongings, I pull my cap off, smiling once again thinking of Mia.
‘I think I will bring her swimming’ I say out loud to myself.
‘Who?’ Say’s a voice next to me. I was still oblivious of anyone else’s presence around me, I was in a post-swim glow, almost like a post-coital glow. Now that had been some time ago.
It’s the same man. He too is getting ready to leave, rubbing himself down and putting on his t-shirt. He is maybe my age, a bit younger perhaps, and still very fit, his grey hairs on his chest glistened in the sunlight as the suns rays shine down through the glass dome roof. He had the bluest of blue eyes I had seen since…
‘Who are you going to bring swimming?’ He asks again, with a broad smile.
I stare at him. Those blue eyes, I’ve seen them before, though it felt like it was an eternity ago.
‘Mia,’ I managed to say, ‘My granddaughter.’
‘Oh, I’m sure she would love it. Kids love the water. I know I used to. Still do.’
I turn back around, wondering, could it be?
‘You know, I have this incredible feeling that I know you,’ the man says, touching me on the shoulder. Goosebumps cover my body like an electric shock.
‘It’s your face, I’ve seen you before, I know this is a bit of a weird question but your name isn’t, Florence Pickett is it?’ He asked, still with his hand on my shoulder.
I smile at him and those blue eyes, still as dreamy as ever.
‘It was, once, a long, long time ago, Vince.’
Staring at each other for a what seems like a long time, neither of us says a word his hand still on my shoulder. My breath deepens, and
Perhaps I was meant to go to the pool today. Perhaps this really was the beginning of another chapter, maybe this wasn’t so bad after all.