Lanes Like Braids, Tranquil As A Bath

She only swam at night. It was, in her mind, closure to the day — odious or otherwise. She found relief under broken, once still water. Patrons, meanders, wanderers of the gym never seemed to second glance the pool past ten-at-night, never appeared eager to pull-back the child-safety handle. Cresting wakes of chlorine were churned by warm-bodies. Her body. She swam in solitude. Echoes of her arms beating down on water like palms to cow-skin drums were only hers to hear. Back to back; stroke by stroke; breath after breath. There was never any playlist or radio to bother her — just her metronomic solos. And so she swam. And swam. Every night.

Peanut butter was spread on pieces of multi-grain toast five-days a week at six-forty-five. More often than not, the pitter-patter of bare-feet quickly followed the cooling of toaster coils. “Mom! Mamma! Mom! Can you braid my hair,” a high voice would bounce off the cool bamboo floor down the stairwell. “I still can’t do it.” Her daughter would ask for help every morning till she was eight-years-old and halfway through her fifth-grade year. But she was seven when she left him. “Let me get your lunch out and get your breakfast ready. I’ll be up in five-minutes.” The peanut butter, now warmed and less viscous, found its way off crust-cut toast, bleeding through the paper towel wrapping. “I’m coming up!”

Alarm clocks rang far too early from the guest bedroom. Her fiancé woke at six-in-the-morning, six-days a week, bearing in mind his hour commute toward downtown; understanding full-well he might need to stand the ironing board in lieu of readied clothes. Freshly ironed button-ups lined his closet in soulless shells; they had mutually decided to separate wardrobes days prior. You could still see a clear divide between the shirts, ties, pants she pressed herself for him before their two-in-the-morning conversation. Hers, much like her daughter’s braids, were symmetrical and without flaw. His, like the wedding ring he’d slip on in the shadows of a closing garage, were mangled and riddled with creases. iMessages once tailed by read-receipts sent twenty-minutes after their delivery became ever-more delayed. Eventually, none were ever sent. Hours would pass, dinners would sit cold. Wine bottles were drank by sober sinks; meats were wrapped in aluminum; unsalted sticks of butter would begin to sweat. There was never dessert. Not now, not for weeks. Every morning, she’d watch him knot his tie. And, every morning, she wished it was that bit tighter than it was the day prior. “I’ll try to make it home for dinner tonight.”

The water was consistently as tranquil as a ran bath. People who said otherwise were daft. They clearly did not know the indignities offered by a scalding shower or numbing ice pack to one’s naked groin. Lanes, in the absence of tiled markers, were only recognized by the buoyant synthetic linings: undulating, dancing, malleable to the mind. Stroke by stroke; drum-beats through clenched teeth. They sway back and forth — all eight of them. And when she did remember her name-brand goggles, well-used and chlorine-bleached, notions of clairvoyance came as clear as wiped window panes. She was present./ She was breathing/ She was set free.

Claire left Rodger, somewhere around lap seventy-seven; Claire could swim-up stream for custody of Elizabeth, through white-water and saline marshlands.

She, still, swam at night. Any thoughts of penned documents or cross-taped boxes dissolved whenever she was completely submerged. And, still, she swam in solitude. Down and back. Percussions and reverberations. She continued to bend the world. Stained mosaics replaced once glass-still water. And, every night, she would center herself again — in between lanes like braids and water without bother.