It was 257 degrees.
I kind of liked the smell of the asphalt, but probably only because I had been standing next to it for hours. It made my stomach twist when the wind didn’t blow. My feet and legs were tired but hadn’t given up dancing just yet. My eyes felt dry. I looked at my phone.
We had to wait for one last load of mix; a tedious proposition at such an hour. Grumbling, tired, bear-like growls were emitted from the bull-chested paving crew. Now, with nothing to do… my ultimate worry descended on my exhausted, fumigated brain:
How am I going to get enough swimming in this week?
The calculating began. The closest pool is 15 minutes from here. It is only open for 5 hours in the evening, but it’s a solid 5 hour block and is usually mostly empty. If I get off work at this time, I can get there by this time – after I pick up and feed the dog, etc. What if the guys work late? They probably will. Then, I will have to get there at this time. That’s not enough time. It’s better than nothing.
Or… I could drive. I could drive 1 hour and 15 minutes. That pool is open later. But then I have to drive home. That won’t work – I probably won’t wake up for work. It doesn’t seem so smart to drive so far this week. Besides, I hate that pool. There’s too many people. I like some people. Just…
I looked at my phone. 11:03 pm.
I could still swim in Joe’s Pond. It’s probably only in the low 60s. Yeah. I could do that! That’s my favorite anyway! But… I probably shouldn’t go by myself. Not very far. No… dad will worry. I know he will. Maybe he won’t. You could ask him what temperature he wants you to stop swimming at. You could do that. But you couldn’t do that now. What time is it?
What if I work a split shift? What if I come in and then leave for a three hour swim block and then come back to work? That might work! How could you legitimately ask for that? It’s not really practical. This is construction, not… whatever! Think, already! Use your brain. Of course that won’t work.
Scenario after scenario after scenario went scrolling through my mind. In my head, I constructed a spreadsheet of pools and their locations and my proximity to them at different times during the week. I accounted for the cost of admission, hours of operation, travel time and distance, work out length and intensity. How many hours could I devote to this? How much travel time and distance? How many other plans with friends and family will need adjustment or cancellation or redistribution?
I was starting to be weary of it. Not swimming, but the administration of it. I had to be so deliberate. All the time. I longed for the luxury of a job with a stable schedule. I ached for a pool just up the street that opened at 5 am. Goodness, the things I could accomplish with such tools! Maybe, I could have a normal social life. Or a family. Or… maybe I could take over the world with all the spare time I had!
I remembered the words I had once said to somebody who asked me how I could swim so much. My answer had been that you should keep everything you do romantic. If anything you do becomes tiring or weary, you should work to fall in love with it again. Change something! Be spontaneous! I don’t know, just fall in love. Now, I was still in love… but it was just such a deliberate romance.
I knew, the way my schedule was, that I wouldn’t be able to make my mileage goal for the week. I swallowed that fact bitterly and could feel myself wanting to give up and not swim at all. The accurately named and well-studied “What the Heck” effect that my friend Michael had coined so astutely was about where I was. I won’t be able to do this, so what the heck… I won’t do any of it! I lived there for probably less than a minute.
Then I remembered that I love swimming. I love the water! I love the feeling. I love the space between my ears and the thoughts that keep me company. I love the silence and the solitude. I love the way the water feels so alive! I love how the ocean has so much character and is so deep and far and wide and so dangerous and so friendly and so sweet and strange and strong.
If it has to be a deliberate romance, so be it. It won’t always be like this. So I will cherish even the balancing act and the spreadsheets in my brain and the miles and hours of driving and the strange hours and the fact that I can make these sacrifices and adjustments to achieve a dream.
I smiled out loud… and a sneaky thought dawned on me!
That last truck came and left. The guys finished their jobs. Midnight chimed. I took off my steel-toed boots and left them under my desk. I left the papers piled and the report undone. I grabbed my keys and my dog and ran home. I changed into my swimsuit and ran down to our Joe’s Pond access.
I ran into the water… daring myself to go quickly. It had to be 61 or less! I knew it by the feeling. I smiled merrily at the solid, overcast sky above me. No stars. No moon. The lights around were few. I laughed as the tingling cold caught my skin off guard and demanded such adjustment after being behind the paver. I floated and splashed in the dark, sweet quiet. My dog just stared at me, three paws in the water, one paw raised. She seemed to be poised with concern, ready to go chasing me down if I dared actually swim away from her.
She had no reason for worry. Tonight wasn’t so much about swimming. All I wanted was to be in the water. Because. Because I just love it!
For me, sometimes, it is a deliberate romance… but the emphasis is on the romance.