Backstroke Makes Me Think of You
I pull down my sweatpants and pull off my hoodie.
I twirl my hair into a tight bun and tie it with a thick black hair tie. I pull out my black cap. As I stretch the rubber over my hair it fits snug on my head. I strap my goggles on and they rest on my forehead. I walk over to the edge.
As I sit on the cold concrete I dip my feet into the water; it’s cold and sends goosebumps up my legs. I stare into the clear, bluish water. I see my reflection and I look away. I pull my goggles over my eyes and stand. I position my feet at the edge of the concrete. I raise my arms over my head and I dive into the brisk water.
Once I hit the water I feel a rush; a rush of energy and excitement. My muscles scream to be challenged. I pierce my arms through the water. Faster and faster I hit my arms into the water. I push through and feel the cool water graze my entire body. It is the most freeing feeling I have ever felt.
I reach the end of the pool and in one swift movement I flip and kick my feet off of the wall. My arms work together with my legs to get me back to the other side. Reaching and kicking at the same time, I create a rhythm that my body has memorized.
I reach my starting point and I surface. I gasp for breath and the sweet taste of air fills my lungs. I readjust my goggles and I push off of the wall again. This time I fall into the pace of a slow breaststroke. My legs create a fluid movement to push me across the pool. A sense of calm fills me and I think about the stress as it leaves my body.
Everything that happened that day leaves my body with every breath. I focus on my strokes and my breathing. I count my breaths, in and out. I count my strokes and my body moves up and down.
The thing about swimming is if you focus hard enough, there is no room for any other thoughts in your mind.
Stroke after stroke and kick after kick I reach the end of my lap. This time I hold on to the wall and place my feet flat against it. I use the wall for leverage and I release my hands and propel my body behind me. I float on my back and use my arms to carry me across the pool. Back stroke is the hardest stroke because the whole time you can breathe normally. This sounds easy and it is for everyone else but me. There are no strokes to count, no breaths to time.
Back stroke is when I think about you.
I stare at the white ceiling as I picture your face. The water flows over my body and I pretend it’s you. The air kisses my face as I glide through the water; I close my eyes and wish it was you. I hear your voice whisper in my ear. The heaviness in my heart almost sinks me to the bottom of the pool. But I keep going; I swim through the pain you caused.
I reach the end and I flip over to turn around. I stop because I see my reflection in the water. I dive down, deep down, to avoid the sadness that’s visible on my face. I surface at the edge of the pool.
I grab the edge and pull myself around. The strength in my arms is a comfort. I know that I am strong enough without you. I don’t need you to push me through the water. I can do that all on my own. The muscles in my legs get me back to the start and I pull off my goggles. I take deep breaths to slow my heart rate. It is racing because once again my mind wondered off to you.
Your smile that was once so warm, breaks my heart with every thought of you. Your words, harsh and hurtful, cut through me every time I replay our last conversation. You pushed me away like you never cared.
I wonder if you still think of me.
When you’re laying in bed at night looking at the clock trying to fall asleep, do you miss my warm body next to you?
I take one last lap to cool down. To allow my muscles to relax and wind down. My freestyle is slow and concentrated. I reach as far as I can in front of me as my legs propel me forward. It’s a slow crawl to the end of the lane. I grab the wall with both hands and I flip myself around.
As I reach the end of my last lap I think about our goodbye. How you held me like you didn’t want to let go; but when I cried, you refused to wipe away my tears. You were done with me but also couldn’t stand the idea of being alone. I let you walk away assuming that I was better off. But now as I stand here in the cool water, I find that I can’t keep my mind from wandering back to you.
I pull myself up and onto the edge of the pool. I take a sip of water and tug the cap off of my head. Swimming makes me feel free. The crisp water helps me heal.
But no matter what, backstroke makes me think of you.
Melissa Libbey is a recent graduate with her MA in English and Writing Studies. She is also the first intern for Sick Lit Magazine. When she isn’t writing or reading, she can be found drinking wine while petting her dog. She has also been published on Thought Catalog, Kean Xchange and her twitter: @Miss_Libbey16