Ride the Numbness

I haven't exercised for awhile. I'm a busy man. I have lots of things to do. Like shop on iTunes and sip Pepsi while gazing at the city lights from the roof of our building. It's a living.

So today I brought my swim trunks with me so I could, you know, do a few laps after work. In the dressing room, I was having one of those awkward conversations where both participants are changing and where it's only awkward for me but clearly not awkward for the other guy.

"So, going swimming?" he queried.

I wanted to say "Why else would I be disrobing before you?" but instead I just said "Yep."

"Nice," he obligatorily responded.

The silence was making an awkward situation more awkward, so I elaborated about how I can only swim like two laps before I start taking on water.

"Yeah," he said. By his tone, I could tell he was a "swimmer" and was about to bequeath some insider lore on me. "You know, you always hit a wall after three or four laps. But if you just push through it, your body goes numb."

"Sweet," I said. Sounds like a roaring good time, going numb and all.

"You just ride the numbness," he continued, "and you can go forever."

So, when my arms started to ache and my breath came irregularly after three or four laps, I coaxed myself forward: "Ride the numbness, man. Ride the numbness." I threw my head out of the water sideways in rhythm, desperately gulping air. "Ride the numbness, man. Float on."

Well, an out of shape neophyte swimmer can only ride the numbness for so long, and I sucked a bunch of water on lap 5. I gagged, sputtered, and started treading water while I hacked chlorinated pool water all over the place. The lifeguard raised himself halfway off his chair, arms crossed, his fists grabbing handfuls of material near the hemline of his shirt as he poised to rip it off Baywatch-style.

"I'm alright!" I choked. He didn't move, clearly unconvinced. I finally made my way to the side of the pool and clung to it like an infant to its mother, thoroughly humiliated, despite the fact that, besides the lifeguard, only one person had witnessed my brush with mortality.

As the lifeguard settled back into his chair beneath a broad umbrella, my friend from the dressing room effortlessly glided through the water behind me, stroke by stroke, on lap 30-something, riding the numbness.