It’s 7pm and the orange September sun is on the verge of setting. I lower myself into the pool quickly. Georgia is still hot but the water is chilly enough to goosebump my skin.
No one else is here. Most people lounge during the day, letting their bodies go limp in the beating sun, heads tilted back. Sometimes they drink beer and then dip themselves in the water, but only up to their belly buttons. Lazily, leisurely. This is the South.
The water starts at three feet deep and progresses up to five feet as the pool stretches out. I start at one end and breaststroke my way to the other. My neck strains as I keep my head above water. On the return trip I give in and dive under. I try to reach the end using the air currently in my lungs and almost make it. Almost. Back and forth, sometimes submerged and sometimes on my back, gazing up at the standard blue sky.
I don’t swim to exercise. Rhythmic laps have never been my thing. Tonight, I swim because I’m restless, unsettled, and water helps to shift things back into place.
There’s no reason for these feelings that I can pinpoint, other than the things that are supposed to be happening, that I’m supposed to be making happen, a general expansion of life. But I don’t know what those things are or what I need to do to make them happen and this leaves me with a strange mix of anxiety and passiveness.
Water soothes the panic and washes away the heaviness.
When I feel like this, I long to travel. It’s the restlessness that triggers the search for destinations, looking up tickets, divvying up vacation days, and eying my checking account. I’m never quite certain what I hope to gain from travel; it’s just something that feels right and that I crave.
I think about the waters in Tulum, snorkeling in the clear, clean cenotes in the jungle where things are different and raw but welcoming. Where the ruins cut into the sky and you can buy fresh pressed juice for two dollars. Where my body is covered in sand and stretched open from days of yoga and swimming.
I think about how most of my days now involve screens - laptop, phone, TV. It’s these screens that make me productive, successful, and connected - and also their exact opposites. I don’t know what to do about that. Is this the root of my unsettledness? Is there an alternative?
The sun is behind the trees now but it’s still light out. My husband is cooking dinner in our townhouse a few dozen feet from the pool. I start to get out of the water but my center still seems out of whack and I can’t summon a swell of joy. So I submerge once again.
The sign by the pool says not to hold your breath for a long time and not to swim alone. Breaking both rules, I go back under. In my head I name three things I’m grateful for. I think about what I’ll do after dinner. I will sign up for a creative writing course, I decide. That’s something to soothe the itchiness, the boredom, the fear. Maybe.
I get out and wrap myself in a towel. My dog yips as I walk inside our home, and licks drops of chlorinated water off my legs. My husband hands me a bowl of beef stir fry. Eventually, the restlessness drifts into the background, but doesn’t go away. It never really does.