A Two-Month Hiatus, Broken
by Victoria Sananikone
I trudged across the patch of land that led to the lake, mud seeping between my toes as my Chaco’s squelched in the dirt that was still soft from the storm earlier. My backpack bounced against the small of my back, a piece of equipment that I have not slung across my shoulders in so long. I had forgotten how heavy it was, filled to the brim with old goggles and a few mold-spotted swim caps. My Texas flag towel was stuffed inside the backpack whose weight was shifted unevenly due to my 40-ounce, sticker-strewn Hydroflask.
As I trekked through the storm-soaked earth, I watched two kids fling a bright red frisbee towards one another, the plastic disk seeming to have a mind of its own as the wind deterred it from its course. Families laughed under tarp canopies, relaxed in their lawn chairs sipping mediocre beer and passing around chip bags as their kids splashed in the lake. Teenagers lounged in the beds of their too-fancy trucks, blaring a sad excuse for rap while soaking up the rays of fleeting light that were stolen by the clouds all too often. The jet skis were tame as they dragged lazily on top of the water and boats meandered along the surface with tubes trailing behind. Paddle boards littered the lake, and kayaks sliced through the water. The faint buzz of background conversation and playful laughter tangled itself within the wind’s whistle.
The brown water lapped against the bank that was covered in rocks of all sizes. I dropped my backpack in a patch of dry dirt close to the bank. As I began to strip off my clothes, the inevitability of receiving a one-piece tan pestered my conscience once again. I donned my cap and goggles, all too aware of the multiple pairs of eyes staring at me, the girl arriving at the lake in a practice suit and workout gear. I was the odd one out. I took a quick swig of my water and then proceeded to make my way to the lake.
I treaded lightly, for the hundreds of uneven rocks and sharp pebbles presented themselves like a field of dull spikes. I entered the water with even more caution, as it was brown and murky, causing the rocks to disappear. The water was lukewarm from the sweltering sun, a relief because I was expecting an icy welcome. The water rose up my legs as I waded further into the lake, and as I got closer to full body submersion, I began to mentally prepare myself for the foreign feeling of swimming for the first time in two months. It was time to finally shake off the rust.
Once I reached a drop off from the rocks, I attempted to dive into the deep lake, but as I formed a streamline with my arms, my right shoulder screamed in protest from this position. Oh, the wonders of being a butterflyer. I fastened my goggles within my eye sockets, and sort of plopped into the water, reveling in the feeling of having my body submerged in water once again. I began my first few strokes of freestyle. The movement felt odd, lethargic as my confused body began to move in a manner that had been missing from my life longer than ever before. When in season, my body mirrors a knife slicing swiftly through butter. At the moment, it was as if I was struggling through molasses. As I progressed, I found that it didn’t feel as bad as I had anticipated, and as I executed each stroke for a few paces, my body started to remember them like an old friend who longed for their return.
After each breath to the side, I slid my face back down into the brown water, unable to see anything but… brown. It was an unsettling observation, more so when accompanied by my constant fear of a pair of jaws suddenly appearing from the depths of the lake, opened wide with serrated teeth as its host swam straight towards my face. Shoving away this dark thought, I swam on, stopping momentarily to switch strokes or allow a boat to cruise by. When my endurance-deficient body began to tire, I resorted to rolling onto my back and spreading my limbs out like a starfish basking in the sun. The swirl of water through my ears was quite calming.
A patch of land on the other side of the lake caught my eyes, and I decided to challenge myself. I began to swim towards it in the same fashion I would finish a race: a dead sprint as if a great white was tailing me. My legs thrashed, my arms spun, my heart rate rose dangerously. It wasn’t long until a monsoon of lactic acid began to spread throughout my body, a definite sign of how out of shape I was in the water. Luckily, I reached the patch of land right as the pain became too intense.
Lungs heaving, I lumbered up the bank of rocks and tore off my goggles, relieving my skull from its tight straps. I sat down, stretching out my legs with the lower half of my body submerged in the water. The rapid rise and fall of my chest began to slow as I tilted my head back to squint at the sun. I let the tiny waves crash against my stomach and wondered if they wished they could crash with the same ferocity of ocean waves, rolling and tumbling with terrifying force. The sand was incredibly soft and addicting to sink my hands into. I grabbed a fistful, the slimy particles escaping and splashing back into the water as I lifted my arm and slid the sand across my skin. I massaged the sand against my skin, enjoying the coarse exfoliation, and when I washed it off, it felt as if I had brand new skin. I watched a tiny boat pass by that was captained by a cute old man who greeted me with a warm smile and a friendly wave. I returned the gesture with a grin of my own.
As I sat in that lake, basking in the scorch of the sun, I realized how much I had missed swimming. I never believed I would miss the sport, for it has consumed my life with its demands. But, these demands are what have shaped me into who I am today, and for that, the girl that sat in the lake sliding sand over her skin was grateful for everything that swimming has given her.