When You Remember Swimming…

Courtesy: Bernard Goldbach, Flickr

Have you not gone to the pool in a while? Maybe you’re in between seasons? Or maybe you quit the sport a long time ago? No matter the reason, it’s been some time since you’ve been to the pool and really swam. And now you’re remembering it.

Can you remember how it used to feel?

Can you feel it now?

Are you holding your breath?

Can you feel your entire body tensing?

Is the air around you turned to water?
For a moment there is only darkness, the backs of your eyelids, and a shudder of breath in your chest.

You are still but there is sense of expectancy, a speeding sensation, everything moves faster. Your pulse quickens.

And in the next instant you can see yourself from a distance away.

You’re swimming, as you knew you would be, the stroke isn’t perfect, but that doesn’t much bother you now.

Can you see it? Looking out from behind goggle lenses, watch bubbles weave into focus, a hand, splashes, a glimpsed lane line. Then, below, a single, solid, black line. You stare and it stares back with the smile of a Cheshire cat. Faceless, with neither nose nor eyes, only a long black toothed smile, beaming, forever.

The water is heavy with memories. Old memories like dreams, slipping in and out of your head. Your skull has become porous to them. They enter as if by osmosis, yearning to be remembered. Of sets and practices, meets and teams. Years of life. Years of love and pain, years that saw so many different kinds of tears.

That is over now. But it is the same. The pool is a timeless place, the water never changes.

You can remember the feel of it. The pressure on your hands, like a strong handshake from an old friend. Firm, and familiar.

Now, you are out of the water, beside the pool. The starting block is roughs to the touch, you remember it well. Your feet find their marks with a practiced ease. Toes grip and fingers grip too. Your body is rigid. It feels right.

Then, the horn! What glory, what joy there is in that monotone electric sound! Your feet leave the block and your body is in the air. Launching, weightless, the calm before a tempest. The moment stretches and threatens to break. It lasts too long, and not long enough.

Entering, the water rushes past you, over suit and skin, streaming in ribbons of bubbles and chlorine. You swim past it, over it, through it. You roll with ease, Until—

You are startled back into your skin. Some noise, a car, a voice, something calls you back to where you are. Looking around, it all seems so distinct now. Lines are stronger, colors are bolder, the light dances and the shadows lie heavily. But, despite how solid it feels—how much more real—it is dingy to you. It is but a desert, it does not have what you seek.

You long to be back.

You want to swim again.

By Connor Bailey, Swimming World College Intern


  1. Bob Ficca

    All so true–I actually started back after a 32 year lay off. I have 6 months in and am feeling pretty good. The first 25 yards I did felt great and that was it, then the first month was pretty miserable. After a couple of months I was doing sets on xx or with xx and now do a couple thousand yards give or take few times a week. I have to force myself sometimes to get to the pool in the AM before work but after I have it in I feel fantastic. My plan is to never stop again. It’s something I’m fortunate enough to know how to do and is non intrusive on the joints, plus I love the “buzz”

  2. Miriam Ruhl

    So true! I love the water, love swimming, love the feeling!

  3. avatar
    Heather Hannaford

    You have amazing insight. This is a wonderful article…thank you!