You were so, so young then, sister not even born yet, dad supporting you off-and-on with his arms, as you floated on your back in the coolness of the chlorinated water, entire pool empty in the morning, he would teach you how to float, how to swim, before you knew it you'd be in the pool, still so young, without any flotation device, you'd never learn how to use a lifejacket because you'd never need one.
In class swimming lessons in elementary school you knew it all already, knew the frontstroke, the breaststroke, the backstroke, could open your eyes underwater without goggles if need be, could hold your breath longer than just about anyone, the water was just an extension of the ground to you, another perfectly natural habitat.
Over years and years you'd swim in pools at the place your parents kept in the beach town, and in the lake itself, never worried about rip-tides or waves, at times dashing out into them where they were as high as eight feet, and red flag warnings were in effect, but it did not matter, because you could swim with the best of them, and there was nothing the water could do to triumph over you. In the pool, you'd be challenged by kids who were on swim teams and took private lessons, and you never lost, not once, they could have sworn you had to be on a team in school. You could swim from one end to the pool and back, and then again from one end and back, all in one breath, head down, arms sliding under the surface, legs carefully churning but never splashing.
You can remember when you started to drift away from the water, tired of being made fun of when shirtless, tired of a curved spine rendering your chest lopsided, tired of kids and their meanness, self-conscious now like you'd never been. In high school, Dan would ask you to join the swim team, but you would avoid him and avoid committing, sure you were that you were not good enough to be a swimmer, sure that you would be made fun of, sure you didn't want the tight fitting suit over your skinny body. And as the years went on, you stopped, no longer swimming over your high school years, then college, then 20s, the pool and the lake becoming distant memories, the freeness of floating and gliding and the comfort of the cool water lost to time.
Then, one day, wearing a shirt and swim trunks, you decide to walk into a pool, you're far away from home, and maybe people will wonder why you are wearing a top, but let them wonder. Immediately, frontstroke laps, and it's like riding a bike, you're so comfortable, so smooth, so fast, and while you can't hold your breath like you used to, you remember to only tilt your head one direction, and your eyes still don't sting form the water, and you know exactly how fast you are going. And then there's the other strokes, and they all come back, and then the freedom of the water and the feelings of it washing over you, of your hair matted down, of your body feeling weightless, of the propulsion and movement, and you're in love again, and you're home, for hours amidst the water, back and forth, side to side, and you know that this is where you always belonged, and it's like an old friend has come back into your life.
But you wasted it, and now it's already Fall, and all the pools are closed, and the beach is closed, and you have to wait until next year to feel the water again, and maybe then you'll learn to appreciate again what you once lost.