I swim without the need for company. Watching for another cap on the breath out, pacing the length of the stroke to glide along side. I am not rhythm. I am not balance. I am left drag right height push down drained by my watch.
So when I offer to take a young friend, a strong and athletic teenage swim friend of my son’s who visits from France to swim in Walden, I do not know what to do.
He swims five to eight kilometers three times a week. He is long, lean, a quiet easy boy man. I am dithering mother woman.
I say, as he stretches and prepares his goggles, as we stand thigh deep in water, his athletic self, my embarrassed self, water ripples making space between. I say, “I’ll be off then.” I slide into the cooling water, morning water ruffled by a fresh breeze. I slide in graceful slither as my crinkled parched skin allows. Immediately the stroke is balance, the stroke is rhythm and I am metronome. Suddenly thoughts come to me. They speak in noises in my head. My young French friend who I have invited here, he does not know Walden, the bowl she is beneath the long form of us, the reach into her entrails. Her gut.
But he is not child, he is boy man and robust in water that I am not. I am mother of teenage independence. Teenage growing away from mother me. So I swim on. The rhythm takes me. The mind falls into breath and blow. All that is before, drops away.
Until I reach beyond the center. I am in deep. Deepest deep. The breath eye spots strong stroke over wind water waves. It is my young swim friend. He strokes with the wing of butterflies. I watch between breath blows as butterfly wings metamorphose into the breasts of water birds. He has swum into and across to where I am crawling like tortoise shell beetle, and levels with me.
He strokes as only I dream of and together we cross the pond. My breath blow beetle rhythm and his metamorphosis so to stay level with me.
And I smile bubbles in the rhythm of company.