Today I forgot my headphones when I went to the gym, which would have been catastrophic any other day, but for some reason, today was different. I chose one of the treadmills facing the pool, and as my feet set into rhythm, I watched the young swimmers dive in one by one.
Their bodies were smooth and straight and as they hit the water, like they were cutting into glass, sharp and steady. Their legs followed after in a fluid, liquid motion. This fascinated me. Back in middle school, I used to swim. But I was always terrified of the water. I hated the moment before diving in, hovering on the starting block with shaking knees, waiting for that whistle. I hated the first break into the water–it was always cold no matter the temperature. And I hated the way my lungs felt like little balloons, collapsing under the sheer pressure of underwater anti-gravity. No, I was never a swimmer. But watching these boys and girls slip into the water with ease, their arms and legs moving in rhythm made me want to be. They were beautiful. And their movements motivated me. My feet pushed with precision; in the absence of headphones I listened to the sounds of my soles on the treadmill belt. I counted my breaths, felt the movement of my arms in sync with my heartbeats. And I felt fluid, free.