I love swimming more than a normal person and my friend, Karen, loves swimming more than me. We go to a Master’s swim class together which makes her giddy with joy every week. I like it a lot but never get giddy. I’m her emotional anchor. I can’t afford to go around the bend about a dip, even a fine one.
We have been known to ride down along the lakeshore, be overcome with sweat and fatigue, lock up our bikes on the rack by the concession stand and walk into the water fully clothed. More than once. Swimming with our clothes on – it’s a freedom pact that we have with each other. Hot, sweaty, see a lake? Go in the lake.
I love that about Karen. No one else I know is like her. Everyone else would worry about having to ride home wet or having sand in their pants, which admittedly is uncomfortable and disconcerting. Those of you who have swum in your clothes know the exactitude of which I speak but am too polite to describe.
Several years ago on one perilously hot summer night, Karen and I went to Oshkosh to run a focus group with new parents. Tell us your experiences, we asked. Did home visiting help you? All the while, I knew Karen was itching to dive into Lake Winnebago, the giant lake next to the city. We’d driven past a cute little beach and I could see in her eyes that her heart was there strolling into the water, taking that first lovely breast stroke, being weightless and sleek, and so nice and cool.
“I’m not swimming in my clothes. It’s too far a ride home.” An hour and a half in the car was too much with sand in my pants.
“We’ll go to K-Mart and buy suits.”
The local K-Mart had a rack of half-off suits. Ugly, uglier and ugliest. Honestly, how much would you spend on a suit to wear swimming once in Lake Winnebago? A little? A lot?
I picked a two-piece number with a bottom and a top, very modest, with ruffles, green and pink, very becoming, half off.
We changed in the car.
“We’re going to get arrested!”
“No one gives a fuck. Just hurry.” And then, “Jesus, Jan, cover up, nobody wants to see that!”
We walked past little kiddoes getting pulled out of the water by their parents, time to go home, time for bed. Reluctant kids and their sand pails migrating to dry land while we tiptoed past in our glory.
We swam. We swam in the vast Lake Winnebago. We swam until the moon came up.
And it was luscious. As luscious as anything ever.