Dec 26, 2009 | Kennett Square, PA
Dec 26, 2009

Like a fish up on land, I was craving a swim so I drove through the rain to the YMCA where I plopped myself into their big and brightly-lit pool. The Pennsylvania swimmers were pale and hairy like me, and we pulled and kicked ourselves through the warm water, privately prescribing the secret wonder-drug of weightlessness to all of our overstuffed holiday bodies. In the pool we were beautiful machines — like diving birds or flying fish that also could think but that while we were gliding and flipping had minds that were happily, perfectly blank.

But afterward, in the tungsten-lit showers, we all stood naked and yellow in a big and open room, twisting pirouettes under the nozzles and next to the wall to wash off the soap. Our pale and hairy bodies no longer looked like diving birds or flying fish, but now just like pale and hairy bodies. We looked equally weak and grotesque — inhuman but suddenly more human than ever.

In the shower it was hard to keep your mind happily and perfectly blank, because you would look around and see the pimply stomachs of the other men and you would want to fill up your mind with any mental construction that could build back your identity and convince you that you were more than your body.

So in the shower, we gradually became artists and lawyers and doctors and fathers again, if not to the others then at least to ourselves. We walked to our blue metal lockers, dripping wet and wrapped in towels, desperate to get back into our clothes and into our lives (some of us more so than others). Once the clothes were on and the cars were started and the highway was hit, that perfect weightlessness felt farther away than the swimming pool, and seemed like some kind of dream that hadn't really happened, because how could that and this both have been us, and surely one of them was an impostor, but which one it was we could not say.