The pool at the university I go to is rather unconventional. When I swim in the afternoon, I can hear the orchestra playing from the second floor. The sound proofing is apparently faulty.
This story and this photo are not of my university, but I suppose I like the concept of the orchestra soundtracking my swim.
I also like the concept of swimming as a sport of perseverance more than natural talent. I suppose it's because I correlate success with tenacity and persistence. I suppose it doesn't apply in all circumstances.
The first sound that hit her were the strings from the second floor landing floating above the pool like a balcony. The orchestra had gotten into the swing of rehearsals, their brows glistening with smudged black notes and trembling keys. They were playing an especially mellow tune, unintentionally soundtracking Mia’s tired stride as her feet kissed the poolside’s slippery tiles. The sun was peeking through the frosted windows, unwilling to relinquish its hold on the day. Personally, Mia had had her fill of it. The sun shed too much light into her small lab, and today it made her far too aware of her cancer proliferating cells filling up her petri dishes. They were supposed to die. Instead, she came in to a thriving culture. Just as she had for the last hundred (or was it two hundred? she'd lost count) trials. No, the sun had shown her enough today. She was looking forward to the moon’s reign.
If she’d lived nearer to the river, she’d have driven down to the bank and hidden her car in the underbrush before going for a long swim. As it was, her wilder days were behind her. She lived in the more urban side of town, flanked by red brick dormitories and biking adolescents. So instead, she settled with the university pool devoid of a heater. Unwrapping her towel from about her shoulders, she deposited her belongings on a hook next to the pool before she slowly slipped in.
Already, younger swimmers were making waves, tossing the water about, causing artificial currents to form from all their flapping arms. She stood near the ledge as the freezing water wrapped its cold breath around her limbs, encouraging lethargy. Age was catching up with her, and she wondered where all her time went. Just yesterday, she was young and ambitious—eager to prove herself in an environment filled with geniuses. Now, she just felt tired. Overworked. Her youth and ambition had long faded, and all she was left with was the work. It took a bit of effort to stretch her legs out as she poised her self to swim. Her first few laps made her feel like a fish out of water. Her breath was ragged, her limbs stiff, her feet seemed to chop the water harshly, she slowed the faster she tried to go.
The sweet hum of the orchestra’s cello helped her find her rhythm. Soon, she was slicing the water with ease, allowing the day’s weight to slide off her shoulders. Her research could bother her the next morning. For tonight, it could bloody well sink to the bottom of the pool for all she cared. It had taken enough from her already—decent sleep, society, any chance at the Nobel—and she was fed up with it. Five years was enough time to finish a PhD program, she once thought. She was close to six this year, and she felt like a failure—she had no data, no more funding, and no alternatives. She was at the end of the line, and the train conductor was respectfully asking her to disembark. Perhaps it was time she did. God knew she’d tried her best.
Mia twirled the idea of it all ending as she swam her laps, watching little rings of light pattern themselves onto the pool floor. Tomorrow, she would perhaps pack up her things and leave her research for some other young kid to work on. Perhaps tomorrow she would keep working. Who knew? Mia certainly did not. She swam and swam until her toenails turned blue, and surfaced to the twang of bows as the archery team in the adjacent practice room flung sharp arrows at their marks—hoping, perhaps, that she could somehow hit hers as well.