He sat in the humid room that smelled of chlorine and watched me bob up and down in the water. My turquoise swimsuit shimmered like a tropical fish in the ocean. I was a “natural” my teacher told him. Each time I climbed up the diving board I’d yell “Watch me daddy, watch me,” and each time I bobbed to the surface I’d see his face smiling at me.
I loved to swim. It was my escape.
I would dive deep under the crystal blue water, and the only sound I would hear was my own heart beating, the reassurance of life.
It resounded in my ears.
As I wiggled my way down the length of the pool I was comforted by its predictable rhythm.
I would hold my breath until I thought my lungs would burst, and then scramble for the surface. My head would break the water and that heart and head connection would be replaced by screaming children and the sounds of splashing. Immediately I would dive again searching for that beating heart in the water.
That sound had all but disappeared until four years ago when I started swimming again for triathlon training. A clumsy adult who panicked when her head hit the water had replaced the once graceful tropical fish.
Swimming had become a chore, a “must do” on the training list. Each stroke was torture and I would do the minimum amount of laps, so I wouldn’t have to stay in the pool any longer than I had to.
After two minor panic attacks during last summer’s triathlons I knew I needed to learn to swim again.
The water is cold, heart stopping cold, and I bob up and down, like I did years ago during those swim lessons. Eventually, my body warms up. I snap my goggles into place and begin. Stroke, stroke, breathe. Bubbles lead my way, and I try to make sure my face is in the water, make sure to ease my mind and let the panic fade.
After a while, the strokes become easier, and my breath slows. A rhythm is formed and through the bubbles I can start to hear it.
The heartbeat in the water has returned.