It’s her time. Every day at five in the afternoon. It’s the perfect time for swimming, actually, because the filter has just turned itself off and the water is still and smooth.
It’s also the perfect time of day in general: after the heat from the summer sun has lessened some, but before the mosquitoes come out. (She’s tried swimming at dusk before and ended up nearly being eaten alive.)
So, five ‘o’clock it is.
Sometimes she lets the dogs out to root around the yard while she swims. The big black one stands on the edge of the pool, longing to get wet, but not quite daring to try. The small fluffy one has fallen into the pool many times before and is understandably wary.
She likes their company. It’s easy and unaffected. There’s no artifice with dogs; what you see is what you get.
Mostly, she likes that her swimtime is uninterrupted by other humans. Sure, her husband is typically working in his office, and she always tells him she’s swimming, so that if she doesn’t come in for some reason, he knows where to look.
But that thought is quickly banished.
She drapes her pink and white striped beach towel across the arms of one of the patio chairs and leaves her flip-flops underneath it. Her sunglasses, she leaves on as she descends the steps into the pool. They’re a little too tall for her, so her movements aren’t graceful, like a reverse Aphrodite slipping back into the water, but more half-way between a step and a hop.
If the vision of herself that lives in her head doesn’t quite live up to reality, the water itself never disappoints. It embraces her, envelopes her in its cool liquidity, a daily welcome into the home that she should have born to.
During her morning and afternoon swims she might do barre work at the side of the pool, or swim laps, the focus being on exercise, but in the early evening, it is her time simply to be.
Weightless, still wearing her gold-toned plastic sunglasses with the rhinestone earpieces that remind her husband of toothbrushes on the side of her head, she eases her body into a back float.
Above her is a canopy of trees. It keeps the pool in shade half the day, which is lovely in July and August, and less so in May, June, and September, but she won’t let anyone trim the trees. She loves to let the water carry her where it will while she watches birds flit about and butterflies and bees visit the flowers some of the limbs bear.
A cardinal streaks by overhead, and she smiles. Cardinals, she’s read, are meant to be the visiting souls of loved ones who have passed on. Maybe this one was her grandmother, her stepfather, her chosen brother.
Or, maybe, it was just a bright red bird, on its way home to a nest of waiting fledglings.
It doesn’t matter.
What matters is that this is swimtime, when she releases all her cares and allows her thoughts to flow and wander.
Ideas for stories float through her brain while her body is suspended in the water, and she smiles at a particularly preposterous idea.
She closes her eyes and allows the sounds of nature soothe her even further. Bees, birds, even the cicadas that most people find annoying – to her, they are music.
Her big black dog barks, rousing her from her reverie.
She swims to the side of the pool and stretches up her face to receive his sweet doggie kisses. (Thankfully, big dogs rarely have bad breath.)
She leaves her sunglasses on the edge of the deck and turns away from the dog, diving under the water and swimming the length of the pool still submerged.
Surfacing, she does a flip-turn at the wall and butterflies back the other way.
She swims a few laps, not for exercise, just for the sheer joy of it.
When she sees the first mosquito, she makes her way to the steps and ascends, dripping, to the sun-warmed deck. She retrieves her towel, slides her feet into her flip-flops, calls the dogs, and goes back into the house for a hot shower and a cold drink.
Swimtime is over for the day.
But her heart and mind are still in the water.
And always will be.
About the author: Melissa A. Bartell
Melissa is a writer, podcaster, sometime-voice actor, and collector of hats and rescue dogs. She lives in Texas with her husband and their four dogs. She can be found on her blog, MissMeliss.com, her podcast page, BathtubMermaid.com, and her book review site, Bibliotica. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.