There’s this very fat woman who shares a lane with me. She wears a blue rubber hat and goggles. Her flesh is creamy white and tapers into elegant hands and feet that she points like a dancer. Her body twists in the water, twists as if it will tumble and sink in the water. She doesn’t quite do breast-stroke, she swims at an angle that isn’t fully side-stroke. She doesn’t quite do back-stroke because each elegant flip of her arm tips the body onto the side and so in that moment, she is swimming sideways. And then she rolls back on to her back, flicks her head side to side, and then moves to the other side. Somehow we always end up in the same lane. I watch her and think, how gracious. We share the lane and I try to think of things to say to be friendly. I want to tell her how strong she is, and how fast she is. But I know I only think she’s strong and fast because she’s so fat. I feel ashamed that when we are both doing back-crawl, she’s faster than I am. This obese woman whose arms swing back so slowly and softly is faster than me. I am trying harder, I’m sure. She doesn’t try at all. Today I let her overtake me in the deep end. Our eyes touched and she pushed off, twirling around to her front. She gets in before me. I get out before her. She’s very focused. Very fast. Very smooth. I think about her on her fiftieth length jealously and wander back to the public changing rooms where the toilets smell of urine because people seem to think that when they’re swimming they might as well piss on the floor. Or piss in the pool. And to think that for so many years I believed the water would go purple.
I long to see her on land, to outmanoeuvre her.