Swimming Essay

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As in John Cheever’s short story “The Swimmer,” I assigned myself the task of swimming home, moving through the neighborhoods and communities that, side by side, would bring me back to myself.

“The Swimmer”: a jovial middle-aged Westchester resident named Ned “Neddy” Merrill, gin-drunk in his friend’s backyard, announces his intention to swim home by way of the fifteen private (and one public) pools that punctuate the properties between himself and his Bullet Park mansion.

When I quit my full-time job in July, I decided to resituate myself by swimming in as many outdoor public pools as I could physically take.

The city of Toronto hosts a constellation of fifty-eight outdoor pools—fifty-seven currently swimmable—so I didn’t lack for water, and being newly unemployed, for time.

I admire the mid-rise apartment complexes and their vainglorious names: Terraces, Towers, and Arms.

They seem beautiful and banal and untouched in the way that I don’t associate with Toronto, a city of cranes and Crane Girls.

In the water, I flip around aimlessly like a happy seal, warming my face in the late afternoon light as the laughter of adults, and more distantly, children, floats over me.

Pools, like people, can be both subject and object.

In both the painting and the film, the person who authored the splash never transcends it. Pools are naturally erotic, like the language we use to describe them—aquamarine, sapphire, azure, and cerulean—all the horny words for a blue you can’t quite hold onto.

They are also natural sites of tension (drowning, social exclusion, sunburn).


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