Aquatic Disturbance in Lane 5

Cast of Characters
Girl in the Cobalt Cap
Must Do Breast Stroke (MDBS)
Beard Guy
Me

Notice the women have no issue sharing the lane. The Girl in the Cobalt Cap and I pass each other like stringbeans floating in the night. We keep an equal distance. No drama, no aggressive splashing, no smashing of hands in the air as you pass.

Not so for MDBS. Every time I pass him I wince and thread myself faster through my space because I might get smashed. His kick takes up 3/4 of the lane, and technically, each of us just has half of it.

Do you know Templeton the rat from Charlotte’s Web? The Paul Lynde version? When he says he doesn’t want to get kicked or biffed or scratched as they crowd into Wilbur’s crate? That’s how I feel with MDBS.

I do flip turns occasionally, especially at the beginning of my swim. But more often, I get to the wall, touch it, take a breath and kick off. Right before the wall, I sometimes roll onto my back like a river otter, for flair. At one point, my head’s out of the water and I’m taking my breath, and MDBS, with his face screwed up, asks me if I know what time it is. He tells me he doesn’t have his glasses.

What time is it? Time for me to not get cracked in the rib by your crappy breaststroke kick, that’s what time it is!

Just because I’m a girl, sorry, I’m not here to serve you. Bring your glasses if you need to know the time in the middle of lap swim. I’m not your time-keeper!

I look at the clock. “It’s about five to 6:00,” I say.

What time is it? Time for me to not get cracked in the rib by your crappy breaststroke kick, that’s what time it is!

Just because I’m a girl, sorry, I’m not here to serve you. Bring your glasses if you need to know the time in the middle of lap swim. I’m not your time-keeper!

I look at the clock. “It’s about five to 6:00,” I say.

MDBS also attempts butterfly. But his body is more vertical than horizontal and his arms flail as he tries it.

When I catch sight of this through my periphery — already blurred by my fogged-up goggles — I wonder: is this a drowning person? Do I have to pull out my rusty lifesaving skills because the lifeguards are probably distracted by noodles and water toys? I don’t think I want to grab this guy around the chest at the bottom of the pool…

So I set a good rhythm and stay away from MDBS. In the shallow end, I adjust my goggles and spy the other guy in our lane coming up. I move to the side. As he turns at the wall, his head comes up. It’s all goggles and beard. He pauses, looks at me and breathes straight on me. Dude! I don’t want your exhale in my face! Dag!

So I dodge MDBS’s heel and stay out of Beard Guy’s mad breathing scheme. Dag!

Let me share the lane with Cobalt Girl any day.

When Bobby D. Wins the Nobel Prize

I think of my parents. The Freewheelin’ album standing on the furniture bookcase, the black and white Baez album beside it. Newport Folk behind that. The needle sinking into the groove. The record rising and falling as it goes round and round. I won’t be able to reach the turntable for a long time.

I think of Lucas. Lying around his bedroom in 10th grade while Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts plays, loud on his fancy stereo. His dark hair long on his shoulders, his wizardry with a joint, his violin in the corner. His mom at the other end of the house, occupied with something else. Feeling saturated and swirling with the poetry and volume of it all.

I think of my brother. Cranking up Idiot Wind on Hard Rain, both of us singing louder as the verses surged and snarled. Dylan rhyming on daydreams, losing battles and destiny. Me in the mix of all that. I was 15 and couldn’t release a thing. But I had my brother and his band of friends who protected me.

I think of Yariv at Clark with the New York Times folded under his arm and his faded backpack weighted with Philo 200 books. His obsession with Dylan above all else. We all watched him pretend. But we laughed together, drove our miles and marched our marches.

So when Dylan wins the Nobel Prize, we’re not surprised. These are the lyrics that keep you turning the pages. I put on Idiot Wind and think of all the letters I wrote. To Grandma in Sarasota. To Hillary when her family left for California after her sister’s death. To Alice at Wheaton. To Lester-loo in Seattle during my 20s…list goes on. It’s cold and stormy out. The giant cypresses on the alley are twisting and thrashing. It’s actually the tail end of a typhoon.

Sandcastle Boy

Salt wind veers off a broken tower.
Peak tumbles to rippled sand
as tide switches under low clouds.

He scoops wet sand in a green pail
clump after clump, dripping
thick on a lifted shovel.

He flips the pail and towers emerge —
brief kingdom. The waves race, sand spills down
leaving the hull, a lump of gray

like his body, crumpled and buckling
limbs pulsing, fists beating thin air
eyelids in tremor, lips gone blue.

Grasses bend past the tide line.
Eagle hangs in north breeze over bluff
a pinned corpse against the sky.