I swam Monday, for the first time in weeks. No one was in the pool when I got there, so I took the lane closest to the dressing room, the lane with the steps leading into the water.
As I finished my first lap, I noticed a man sitting on the top step. He had dark hair and wore yellow swim trunks. His head was in his hands; he stared intently into the water as if he were lost in a deep daydream. I thought maybe he was waiting until I swam by so he could then move across my lane, under the rope, and into one of the empty ones.
But no. He was still in the same spot at the end of my next lap. Then my fifth lap. Then my seventh, and my tenth. For a few moments, I wondered whether he wanted me to leave so he could have that lane.
For several more, I let my imagination take me into the pages of an unwritten murder mystery. Who was he? Was he going to reach out and hold my head under water? Would anyone at the front desk be able to see through the glass what was going on and rescue me before I drowned?
Then he was gone. I didn't pay attention to where he went, but suddenly, there he was again. I finished my freestyle swimming. Then I reached for the two blue kick boards I'd stacked outside the water. I reached my arms across the top of them, then frog-kicked another up and down the lane.
When I reached the end, I took off my goggles. I tend to wear them quite snugly; I've seen my reflection in a mirror after my swim and cringe at my flushed face with their embedded outline.
So what he said to me surprised -- OK, shocked -- me.
"You look so beautiful swimming," he said with the slightest bit of an accent.
I didn't take offense; I wasn't creeped out. Nor did I want to slug him. Admittedly, I did think for a minute he was going to add, "And your face looks so old once you stop."
Truth to tell, I wouldn't have been surprised. I'm no idiot; I know that though I feel 30ish and I have nice shoulders, I am not exactly young looking, especially not after a swim.
But he didn't say that. He hardly even smiled, come to think of it. But I did, and I told him he had made my day.
His statement made me realize, albeit on a small and selfish little scale, the power of words. What it means to tell someone, even a stranger, a positive thought that crosses your mind.
I may swim again today. And no doubt will pay special attention to each stroke, wondering if what he said is true.
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