Most of the time I had a lane to myself. Then I swam on my back, the eyes closed, enjoying the partial loss of gravity, of being carried by the water, freely moving, as if an invisible weight was taken off of me.
That process started for me as soon as I entered the showers. I never showered seriously, it was more of a soap-free walk-through, literally, I just pushed the button on the wall and took two steps. Done. Then—wearing already my swimming trunks—I proceeded to the pool. No soap could compete with the chlorine-mix in the pool, a chemical club capable of killing every known bacteria to men.
Often I swam more than suggested, most of the time with my eyes closed. When I opened them I read the slowly moving projections on the ceiling of the pool hall and on the walls around, drifting images, news headlines and messages softly dissolving into each other like a fleeting dream enhanced by the ubiquitous ambient music:
‘Tomorrow drizzle with a chance of showers in the afternoon, 15 degrees.’ ‘It is better to die on your feet, than live on your knees, Emiliano Zapata.’ ‘The Time Traveller has landed.’
The sole purpose of swimming was to slowly relax the muscles strained by hours and hours of workout. I was doing the crawl, breaststroke and dolphin style, always concentrating on my breathing and the soothing gargling sounds of the water in my ears.
When I closed my eyes, I experienced a somewhat pure moment, nearly unpolluted by my environment, a glimpse of myself, a strange state of inner peace. Maybe this was the best part of my life. Swimming blindly, I managed to think. Only here I was able to think the thoughts to the end I could not finish during the day due to all the distractions and notifications. Today of cause it was about the guy four rows behind me. He walked the plank; he took his life. He was done with everything, the worries, the guilt, the emptiness, and he had a good time right before his way out, the best time, he even saw the sun. At the Cloud Hotel. Above the clouds. Good for him.
What about me? What could I work other than the gym? Week after week, this question remained unanswered.
Hegesias, my advisor, expressed his serious wish to help me; at times he sounded more desperate than me. He felt as sorry for me as he did for himself, failing so miserably as an advisor. The day could come he would run out of ideas about what to do with me, and I knew where our conversation would go from there.
As I stepped out of the pool shaking my trunks so they wouldn’t stick to my skin, I paused and yawned. The light gray pool water still rippled because of the two other swimmers in rows three and five. The projected clock over the white glowing exit sign read 4:44 AM, and the reflected ceiling-lights from the water shimmered across the door and the walls.