The locker room door creaks open, and I wrap my towel around my shoulders, covering as much skin as I can. My bare toes don't make more than a whisper against the wet tile as I escape to the pool. I can't handle human contact right now, not even with a stranger.
A woman, maybe in her thirties, is doing laps in one of the lanes. She's making good time, too. The lifeguard flips through a paperback, scribbling things in the margins. We are the only people here, and the silence echoes. No one wants to swim in an indoor pool once the outdoor ones and the beaches open. I'm fine with that, though. It leaves me to my chlorine-soaked solitude.
Usually, I'd jump right in and start swimming laps in one of the lanes until my muscles burned, and even then a little longer. But not today. It might be a good distraction, keep me from my downward spiral of thoughts. Sometimes, though, you have to take care of yourself. Sometimes you have to let yourself think.
I give the lifeguard an awkward little salute when he looks up, and he returns it with a small smile and returns to his reading. He's seen me before, but we've never talked. It's kind of a shame, really. He seems like he could actually hold an intelligent conversation, and he's sort of cute in an understated way. But not today not today not today. Instead, I ease my way into the pool – toes calves thighs hips – and dip myself underwater.
Water never fails to mystify me. The way the light reflects from its surface, its whisper against skin and walls and tile, the way it envelopes you entirely. Everything changes and distorts underwater, and that's just what I need.
My hair fans out around me as I sit on the floor of the pool, strings of honey gold against turquoise. I can hear nothing except the strokes and kicks of the lady, and I already can hardly remember why I'm so distressed. And it's absolutely wonderful.
When I come up for air, the lifeguard is staring at me with a furrowed brow. He probably thinks I'm trying to drown myself, and I'm not – though it seems like a much lovelier fate than my own. He relaxes a little when I smile at him, but he's still keeping an eye on me.
I return to my concrete throne and blow bubbles. Yet another person thinks of me as a flight risk, and who knows? Maybe I am.