t h e i n t i m a t e s t r a n g e r

Finish what you started

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“A big part of the motivation to swim in the Olympics again was feeling as though I had been mentally unprepared in the 1984 and 1988 Games…

When, in 1991, I decided to train for the Olympics again, I didn’t consciously think that I had unfinished business in the pool. I just knew I wanted to swim again. I missed competition. I missed the speed. I missed the focus. I missed funneling thousands of miles of training into one or two lengths of the pool…

I knew I could swim faster than I had in the 1988 Olympic Games.”

~ Dara Torres


Unfinished business. Nod sagely :-)

* * *


Some of us have our quiet moments by the side of the pool. Resting in between laps. Staring ahead at nothing. Savouring the coolness against heated skin. Breathing a little harder perhaps. Waiting for the burn to fade. Getting ready to push into the pale blue again.

I don’t mind my lone trips to the pool. I got used to it after a while, focusing instead on the laps I wanted to cover, correcting strokes, committing movements to muscle memory, recovering by the poolside, catching my breath. Rinse and repeat. Small talk is fine. Talking half the time is not. I’m here to swim. Not to get pruned for nothing and catch a chill.

Other regular swimmers generally don’t talk to me. Ok fine, maybe a few tried but it’s hard to make meaningful eye contact when I am determined to stare ahead at nothing while resting in between laps.

But over time, people realised I didn’t just have one facial expression. Ha. Ha. And fine, I did start acknowledging familiar faces — the lifeguards — with a smile or a wave. Also, as my training picked up and my swims got stronger, people noticed and a few would engage me briefly — mostly women, strangely (or maybe not, hmmm) — with passing compliments and the lifeguards offered a few tips.

I first noticed The Princeling a few months ago. He always swam with his friend and almost every evening. And then he started to work on his butterfly. I knew he/they often looked over and once speculated if I was just a very dark-skinned Chinese (ha ha), but I was becoming a Master at Staring Ahead at Nothing While Resting in Between Laps.

Eventually though, keeping my head and neck in a fixed spot was putting a strain on my shoulders, and I decided to at least acknowledge their presence/attempts and also offer a few butterfly tips. The Princeling beat me to it though, and when I finally looked him in the face, I was really glad that he was kinda cute. Grin. A while later, I realised that we actually had a brief exchange some months earlier when he lost his goggles in the pool and asked to borrow mine so he could look for them. I spotted the goggles from where I was and retrieved them for him instead. And I gave him a dirty look and turned away. Ok fine, I need to stop scaring people away.

Since then, we’ve continued our brief exchanges at the pool, mostly to help tweak his butterfly. I also started to work more on mine. Then, just for fun, I invited him to race the fly — much to his trepidation of losing to a woman in front of everyone. But he accepted and touched home about half a second ahead. Heh. And then I thrashed him soundly in the free. Heh. Heh. Though he initially expressed disinterest in learning to swim faster, he has been the one asking to race since that ‘experiment’. It’s fun getting someone hooked :-)

It’s strange but I was just thinking of inviting The Princeling to join the Saturday swim classes. Again, he beat me to it and asked about the effectiveness of the classes I’ve been attending. So he might join. Or not. What’s this about having a problem committing to classes and showing up regularly and at fixed times? Youngest child syndrome? Sigh.

What also surprised me tonight was the casual mention of the ongoing art exhibition at MBS, and the somewhat tentative offer of free tickets. I think he was also caught off-guard that I went along with the conversation so nonchalantly. But we’ll see. He still needs to get the ticket to me ;-)


Written by The Intimate Stranger

January 16th, 2014 at 11:59 pm

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