Stroke, Stroke, Stroke

Stroke, Stroke, Stroke

By Tom Nussbaum



Vigorous exercise, for me, is bending over and tying my shoelaces or stretching to put the just-washed casserole dish on the cupboard’s top shelf. But I’ve recently discovered how effective and enjoyable swimming laps can be as a form of exercise. It, however, does not come without its problems. Swimming laps, and focusing on technique, has brought out the ADHD in me. My mind wanders. In fact, it begins meandering before I take my first stroke, as I enter the pool, and rambling stream-of-consciousness thoughts continue as I glide back and forth in lane one of the indoor public pool down the road.

Aaahh. The water is warmer than last time. Perfect! And I’ve got the pool to myself. No one to distract…Do I still have my underwear on?  No, it’s just my bathing suit…OK. Let’s go…Shoulders in. Reach. Breathe…But it doesn’t feel right. Is this suit mine? It’s too tight. Have I gained weight?

Stroke. Reach. Breathe…This water has a salty quality. Not a good salty quality. Not like margarita salt …Man, I could use a margarita about now…Is this even a man’s bathing suit?…Stroke. Reach. Stroke Reach…What was I going to do after swimming?…Stroke. Stroke… I feel like I’m rowing in the Henley Regatta on the Thames…Stroke. Reach. Breathe…Where did I leave my glasses? They couldn’t have just disappeared. Well, at least I don’t need them here at the…Ouch! Where’d that damn wall come from? I didn’t see it and I think I scraped my knuckles…

Stroke. Reach. Stroke…Focus on swimming in a straight line. Avoid the wall. Oh, that’s funny. Me,  swimming in a straight line. A gay line would make more sense…Am I bleeding?…Oh, my God. Gary’s birthday is Saturday. What should I buy him? Wine? A book? How old is Gary anyway? …Ouch! Dammit. Who the hell put this wall here? Trump? Oh, I get it. This is the wall…God, I hate that man…Stop it. Don’t think about him…Think about swimming…Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream…Hey, this lane is like a stream. Does that mean I’ve finally stepped into the 21st Century and I’m streaming? Or does it just mean I’m a streaming queen? Oh, that was a horrible pun! Don’t ever use it again. Never say it. Never write it down. …Why do I feel like I have my underwear on?

Stroke. Pull. Stretch. Stroke…Oh, there’s a woman in lane 3. Where’d she come from? knuckles are stinging. Stupid salt…She’s not really wearing a red two-piece suit, is she? I really like Gary. He’s so real, nothing fake about…Lady, you’re too old for that suit. And too big. You should be wearing a black suit with vertical stripes…Stroke. Reach. Pull…And why are you wearing an orange bathing cap with a red two-piece? Where did I get this suit? Is it mine? It doesn’t fit right…Is that woman looking at me? She wants me. I can tell…

Stroke. Reach. Stroke…These ceiling beams remind me of that restaurant. Oh, what is its name? Crap.  Another senior moment. The restaurant with the good margaritas…Man, I really could use one of their margaritas now. It’s an “M” name…Maria’s? Montoya’s? Maggie’s?…Oh, Maggie, I really miss you. You were a special girl. You were the best cat. Maggie the Cat…Man, I haven’t watched Cat on a Hot Tin Roof in a long time…

Hey, lady in lane 3, stop staring at me. Stop fantasizing and swim. Your drooling is raising the water level…72. Gary’s 72.  And he looks terrible. Maybe I should buy him another botched facelift…Wall! Dammit. I swear that side wall is moving closer to me.…

Oh, now I see why my suit doesn’t feel right. I’ve got both my legs through one of the liner’s leg openings…How embarrassing! I can’t get out of this pool until the looky-loo in lane 3 leaves…Reach. Reach. Pull…Elizabeth Taylor was so beautiful in that movie. Oh, hell, what was the name of that movie? I just said it. Maggie the Cat in, oh, oh, yeah, The Cat in the Hat…How the hell did I get both legs through one leg hole?

Oh, yeah, you’re going to Walmart after swimming. Did I take my shopping list with me?  I left it on the counter. And that’s where my glasses are!…Reach. Stroke. Stro… Oh, good. That woman is finally getting out of the pool and, of course, she’s looking at me again. Why am I not surprised? And now she’s taking off that hideous cap. Oh, my God. It’s Deb, my lesbian neighbor.


“Yes, Deb. I had a great swim. Did you? I didn’t recognize you with that lovely swim cap. What? Oh, that’s a great idea. Let’s go and have margaritas. Yes, of course, Deb. With salt.”


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