My boyfriend likes to be on the bottom. The bottom of the swimming pool that is.
When we go swimming at the local pool we sometimes end up sharing one lane, with me swimming on the surface and him gliding along the pool floor. He likes it down there as it’s nice and quiet. I like it too. I like that due to our difference in speed he tends to glide along underneath me at different points during each lap. I like that when we are moving in opposite directions it still feels like we are connected. I like the bubbles he blows out as he passes underneath. I like when he comes up for a lap along the surface and we’re swimming directly towards each other, it’s like a game of swim-chicken except there’s no concern about who will move as we both know he’ll wait until the final moment to take a sharp inhale and dive below, scooting underneath me like a playful sea-lion pup.
As you can imagine, this all gets much trickier in the shallow end! Yet, passing in the shallows is my favourite; because we’re closer. We are trusting that the other is going to keep on their path, flatten their stroke, stream-line their body, get as close as possible without actually touching. Sometimes I slide my hand along his back to give myself a little push along and because ultimately, even while swimming, human touch is important. Being close is crucial, narrowing distance between the me and the you is the most instinctual act of all: intimate, friendly, healing, necessary.
Our last pool swim was a few weeks ago. With all UK gyms and pools now closed due to the new treacherous super-virus we are missing the pool, missing our swims. During our last swim we knew the pool was closing that night and knew it would be our last swim for an indefinite amount of time. As my sea-lion-man went gliding along the bottom of the pool that night, a few metres beneath me in the deep end, my desire to reach out to him was heightened. As pub doors close I feel thirstier. As restaurants shut up shop I feel hungrier. As my 70-year old mum started her self-isolation with my brother backing down her hallway without a goodbye hug because he just received a call from a colleague with symptoms, I feel her sudden tension, palpable across the globe.
Flatten the curve? Yes. Of course. We must flatten the curve of this virus; stay at home, follow the guidance, protect lives.
And. We must also flatten the curve of isolation. We must maintain connection. We must realise that connection is akin with, yet not dependent on, touch.
stay side by side;
glide along the bottom, float along the top
aware of each other in arms reach
flatten your stroke, streamline your body
allow the water to hold you up
distant yet always connected
even while moving in opposite directions
We must ultimately trust that this cruel game of virus-chicken is in no way stronger than our connections, patterns which run deeper than touch.