Swim by Christopher K. Miller

Christopher K. Miller's character is tired of ageing and called by the sea.

Every February, for the past nine years, you and your second husband, Jack, drive down from Ottawa to Anna Maria Island. Official snowbirds now. Always stay at the same rental semi on the beach: a well-appointed cabin, really, with cable TV and high-speed internet. Central heat and air - most days you need both. Shared cedar deck with a big gas barbecue, saltwater pool, and hot tub, too, of course. Mornings you drink coffee with whipped cream and watch pelicans dive-bomb for fish. Last year, a woman you met on an island boat tour said she'd heard they eventually go blind from all those eyes-wide-open impacts, and starve. So no pelican ever dies of old age.

Afternoons, it's burgers and beer at Skinny's. A snack shack with a bar. Close enough to walk. Decorated totally with dollar bills. Thousands of them. Like the owner tacked up the first one he made, but then couldn't stop. Then, after a nap, dinner someplace nice. Evenings, unless it's cloudy, you watch the big orange blob of a sun sink into the Gulf. Drink pink Zinfandel you buy at the local Publix for twelve dollars a gallon. Lean on the railing. Talk to the couple next door. Last year, dairy farmers from Wisconsin. From the moment the sun's orb touches the horizon until it's completely gone takes only a few minutes. You can stare without hurting your eyes. Second time you watched, you took a cell phone video and posted it on YouTube. You don't want to die of old age, either. You've given this some thought.

Every day on the road is one less day in Florida. Plus you and Jack both hate motels. Always seem to have this musty smell, even the non-smoking units. Noisy heaters mounted beneath dirty windows overlooking parking lots. Crappy TVs, usually bolted onto something. Flimsy doors that either stick or refuse to latch. Shallow tubs with gritty anti-slip tread strips. Leaky toilets. A waste of time and money. So you just drive straight through. Easy in the Caddy. GPS. Cruise. OnStar. Jack, who used to work for QNX, says it's just a matter of time until the car'll drive itself. Still, it's a long haul. Twenty, maybe twenty-two, hours speeding down I-79. Depends on pit stops. Between Jack's prostate and Sheetz's bottled cappuccinos, you take almost as many exits as you pass. The first Waffle House is in Philadelphia: Welcome to Waffle House! Tim Hortons as far south as Georgia now. Not as busy as the Canadian franchises, though. Last year, driving back through Summersville, West Virginia, you thought your headlights weren't working. It was raining and, between the slick and the glare, you couldn't see the center line. Jack does all the driving now. Says he doesn't mind a bit. The trick's to not eat too much. And pacing the caffeine.

This year's neighbor's a financial planner, also from Ontario. Works for one of the big banks. Maybe CIBC... or could be the Royal. Hands Jack his card. Tells him he oughta consider moving some of those GICs when they mature into oil and precious metals, maybe even cash out early if that's an option, pay the penalty. The mighty "petrodollar" is gonna crash soon. He uses his fingers to indicate quotes. Like didja see where Germany wants its gold "repatriated." Again with the fingers. But The Fed don't have it. Can't produce it. Prolly sold it to the Asians. No wonder they refused the Germans' request for an audit. Been wallpapering the Globex with naked shorts, unredeemable gold warrants, since Christ knows when, trying to drive the price down. Quash interest rates. Desperate to sweep Obama's latest QE clusterfuck under the rug. To mask inflation. Prop up the nation's credit rating. His wife, who looks maybe half his age, hasn't said a word. Probably heard it all a million times. Appears stoned in some asocial way, or maybe just super bored, as she watches the sun set, dusk fade. No breeze. The ocean looks coated in orange plastic. Like a giant sheet of Canadian fifties. You've heard that a good way to die is to swim out as far as you can.

At first, you'd turn on the car's defrost. Then you blamed cataracts for the fog. Jack had them a few years back. Half your friends already, too. Really, nowadays, almost everyone gets them. Even babies. Jack thinks it has to do with all the cell towers and microwave radiation around. A million texts a minute zapping through your body. Fortunately, an easy fix. You researched it on Wikipedia. How they used to slice open the eye. Replace the lens. Stitch it shut. How you'd spend three days flat on your back in a halo hoping your retina didn't detach. Now it's a topical anesthetic. In-and-out with a needle. A simple ten-minute procedure. OHIP's rates lag the technology. A good ophthalmologist can do thirty a day, make three million a year easy.

After dark the neighbors join you in the hot tub. Dip their toes in. Ask if you mind. She's fit enough for a two-piece. But he's too big for a speedo. How is it men are oblivious to their fat? The water rises with his entry. There's a restaurant/bar with an outdoor patio maybe half a kilometer down the beach. Semi-live music. Just a guy singing karaoke, really. Maybe a guitar. Everly Brothers. Simon & Garfunkel. Beach Boys for the younger set. Drowned out when Jack turns on the jets. He and the financial planner are working on a happy drunk. A loving drunk. Guy's explaining derivatives trading. How today, thanks to computers, that's where ninety-eight percent of the market is, and how a wise money manager uses 'em to hedge, not leverage. His foot keeps touching yours. The stars look out of focus. The moon's full and low, but murky. As if shrouded in smog. You point to where you think a city-sized cruise ship's lights decorate the horizon. But no one confirms. Jack says the stock market's always frightened him the way casinos should compulsive gamblers. Even after RIM bought QNX and handed out call options like Halloween candy and made him and everyone he worked with rich, he never cared for it. You wonder if he's playing footsie, too. Surprised that you don't care. What at first you think's a falling star turns out to be either a satellite or some high-altitude plane. Or maybe the space station. Even looking at it out of the corner of your eye, where objects are at their clearest, it's impossible to tell. Might just be something floating across your cornea.

You were a pretty decent swimmer back in high school. Swam men's varsity your freshman year, only girl on the team. Still remember your times. Fifty yard freestyle: twenty-three seconds flat. Two-oh-nine-seven once in the two-hundred individual medley. Coach Burton's face in yours every time you breathed: Swim! Last year, at your eye appointment, you wondered if all the chlorine might've caused your condition. Dr. Hopfner, the optometrist, thought not. Anything's possible. But AMD's a genetic thing. More common in women, eh? Your mom died in a car crash when you were sixteen. On her way home from a Christmas party. Drunk. But you remember her mother as seeming kind of blind, always trying to see you better, always pulling you a little too close but never looking straight at you. Back then you figured it was just an old person thing. Like wrinkles. Like bad hair and teeth. Dr. Hopfner advised you not lose hope. Leafy green vegetables. Intravitreal injections. An SSRI if necessary. Though you were right about the cataracts. Just not mature enough to be operative yet. Better to take a wait-see approach. Weigh the risks down the road.

The financial planner's wife steps into the pool. Says she needs to cool down. Her breasts are too big for the rest of her. Her swimming looks like some combination of doggie paddle and sidestroke. And drowning. The way she rolls and gulps. Appendages flailing. All working against each other. You almost want to rescue her. Takes forever to swim two laps. You can tell she's proud of her aquatic prowess, though. The way she leans over the shallow end's gutter drawing deep, even breaths. Like hyperventilating. Like she's just crossed the English Channel. Jack asks the financial planner why he thinks it is the US still hasn't gone with plastic money or chip cards, and why you gotta pay cash in advance at the pumps, which is a total pain the ass. This causes the guy to launch into a diatribe about the US economy being so bust now that it actually relies on a certain "manageable" level of forgery and identity theft. He puts his drink down to do the quotes. No one could even begin to counterfeit a fraction of what The Fed does each and every day. Not even close. So who cares, right? And did you know they get most of their oil from us? So how come gas is so much cheaper here? He advises Jack terminate any exposure his portfolio might have to US currency. Not just cash, but any mutual funds containing US bonds or equities he might have kicking around in RSPs and whatnot, too. He places his hand on Jack's shoulder. Giving free advice seems to evoke in him a sense of largesse.

The ocean is black and smooth. Like an oil slick. Swells and ripples instead of waves. You wonder if dolphins sleep at night. Sometimes, in the morning, a pod will swim by, surfacing and diving. Up and down, up and down. Like swimming the butterfly. As if stitching invisible seams. You used to rush out to see. Peer through the binoculars. Though not anymore. It's funny how the amazing blurs into the commonplace. How you can become inured to anything. Like the sun. The good life. The whole universe. But probably not blindness, despite Jack's theories about its leading to enhanced spatial and eidetic memory, better hearing, and probably better sex. At first you thought they were sharks.

You climb out of the hot tub's fever-temperatured water. Say you think you'll try a swim, too. But in the ocean. The financial planner seems actually impressed. Are you nuts? What about undertows? What about sharks? You tell him there's no such thing as an "undertow." Only rip currents. They'll drag you out, but never down. And that you're more afraid of jellyfish. Jack brags you're an unbelievable swimmer. A regular fucking dolphin. Sounds a little inebriated. Glances at the woman, again floundering in the pool. Looks a little worried. What about cramps, though? You take off your ring. Wouldn't want to lose it. Four flawless carats. Wouldn't want to attract barracuda, either. Jack's glad to hang onto it till you get back. No worries. Your muscles are limber. You haven't eaten in hours. Your fingers graze his palm. A kiss might seem too final.

There's a gate, then a path leading down to the sand. Scrub grass on either side. You close it behind you. South on the beach, the entertainer's singing an old Lou Christie hit. Faraway voices blend with the nearby lapping of water. Two Faces Have I, but not quite Christie's keening falsetto. High tide. Probably headed out soon. The ocean's cool, but not much cooler than the air. You're still hot from the tub. The sand's soft and smooth. Early every morning a grader truck rakes up all the stones and shells. Someone said they use them on driveways. It seems to take forever until the water reaches your knees.

The moon is almost straight ahead. You recall reading somewhere that its orbital period and women's menstrual cycles are identical in length. When the ocean tickles your thighs, you dive, and swim for it. But after only a dozen strokes your hands grab sandbar. Standing makes you feel heavy. Unwieldy. Removing your suit helps. You surrender it to the tide. Now the air seems cooler than the water.

After the sandbar, the bottom drops away quickly. As if on the edge of a steep underwater hill. Or cliff. You raise your arms up over your head and perform a standing surface dive. The deep water's colder. But your feet don't touch bottom. So you kick back up. Swim for the moon. Effortlessly. Like flying in a dream. You wonder if you should pace yourself. And, if so, how? For the mile? Your personal best was 17:59. But that was in a twenty-five yard pool. A long time ago. Sixty-five flip-turns. Coach Burton screaming himself hoarse the entire final hundred yards. Bringing you home. Every breath to poolside, screaming in your face: Swim!

Both Jack's sons are visiting next week with their daughters. No wives, though. Separated. The three girls call you Gamma. Like the radiation. Your step-sons call you Jeanne. Always have. You're glad they don't call you Mom. Even though you've known them since they were little. Kissed their owies. Helped with their homework. And, later, their finances. Even though you love them, and you're pretty sure they love you, you suspect it's not the same. Sometimes you wish you'd had children of your own. Though not right now.

Stroke stroke stroke, breathe. Steady flutter-kick. Goddamn your feet are big. First thing Coach Burton ever said to you. Regular flippers. Mermaid feet. Huge smile on his face. Stroke stroke stroke. Your armpit forms an air pocket. Breathe. Stroke stroke stroke. You skip a breath, laughing. Never paced yourself for maximum distance. Stroke stroke stroke, breathe. Guessing eighty-second hundreds. Pulse maybe picking up a little. Sixty-eight or so. More from exhilaration than effort. The current seems to carry you. Even when you stop and tread water.

Your longest competitive open-water swim was five kilometers. Organized by Swim Ontario. Then there were boats and buoys and other swimmers to guide you. You seem to have drifted south a little. Toward the open Atlantic. Toward the restaurant, which is almost directly behind you now. The singer sounds tinny. Lost in the tide. Strings of red, white and blue bulbs outlining the patio look like violet webbing. To the north, past your rental, past your husband and the financial planner bonding in the hot tub, a hotel's pool lights leer aquamarine. Ahead, the moon seems to have drifted to your left. Surely an unreliable guide. You've never heard of sailors navigating by it. Only the stars. Fuzzy and faraway. You wonder if it's really true that if all the stars visible to the naked eye were grains of salt, they'd only fill a teaspoon, whereas all the stars you can't see would fill a lake. The sun's amber glow still lingers on the horizon. Like a tease. You swim for it.

Coach Burton always thought you had a shot at Lake Ontario. Would've gladly helped you train. You wonder if he's still alive. He was about the age you are now. So how old would that make him? Probably too old. It occurs to you, and for the first time, that maybe it wasn't all about mentorship. Maybe his will to your athletic success was mired in something more. Stroke stroke stroke, breathe. Of course. He had a crush on you. You with your big feet, flat chest and pimples. He just wanted to be with you. Even if it meant sitting for days in a small boat, gripping a sputtering outboard's steering arm. Tossed about. Hour after hour. Occasionally vomiting into Lake Ontario's rough, cold water. Just to watch you swim. He also taught Health Ed.

Breathe. Stroke, stroke. Breathe. Only to the left now. One reason you never took on Lake Ontario was all its lamprey eel. Maybe the ugliest creatures on earth. Long, slimy suction cups with needles for teeth. Love to attach to swimmers. But the real reason, the main reason, was those who'd gone before. You wouldn't have been the first, the youngest or the fastest. Though now, it occurs to you, you could be the oldest. Something slick and firm bumps, really more like nudges, you on the thigh. As if to remind you that you're not alone. Maybe a manatee.

You pause for a rest. Look around. Pee. That last glass of Zinfandel. The air's much cooler than the water now, which is cooler than your body. Your urine. You relax. Float. Easy. Seawater's buoyant. You settle into it, only your nose and mouth exposed to the chill air. Feel the ocean's rise and fall. As if breathing. As if in a deep sleep. You listen for the eerie howling moan of whale song. Hear only the drone of some faraway ship's engines. Then surface. Look around. Ears and cheeks cooling. All horizon now. Everywhere you look. You wonder if it's true that sailing ships of old always carried swine. That a pig, thrown overboard, will always swim for the nearest land. You feel a little dizzy. A mild vertigo. Disoriented. Faraway lights could be a ship, or a pier. Or an illusion. But the moon seems real. And about where you remember it. You've always had a good sense of direction. You consult your inner swine. Then do the opposite. Swim for the farthest shore. You're in the Gulf. So somewhere on the coast of Mexico. Or Texas. Or even Louisiana. Cuba, if you're way off course, would be much closer. But still far enough.

Switching to backstroke works a different set of muscles. Gazing up into the night sky is not unlike gazing down into the deep. Both are unfathomable in their way. You imagine Jack has lost interest in matters of national economic import by now. Whatever buzz he's managed to tie on, you've probably killed. But surely the other couple hasn't gone to bed. Left him standing alone on the beach. You wonder how long he'll shout your name before he breaks down. Calls 911. The coast guard. No. It'll be someone else who does. Maybe someone from the restaurant. Americans are way friendlier than Canadians. Especially in the South. What's the problem, buddy? What? How long did you say? Oh man! Jack might even argue a little. A few hours in the water ain't diddly. Not for you. Hell, there've been Lake Ontario crossings took over forty. Some who've swum across and back. Even after the call is made, he'll keep trying to find you. Run up and down the beach all night. Screaming like Coach Burton. Like you're not the one who's lost.

You stay on your back, but switch to a frog kick, with a lazy underwater double-arm sweep. Not a competitive stroke. Well maybe in synchronized swimming. Super easy. Have to be careful not to kick too hard, though. Don't need a calf cramp. But you have to keep moving. You've heard sharks have to swim to breathe. If you stop swimming, you could freeze. Seems funny someone could freeze to death at room temperature. Because that's what the water is. There's a kind of tension, a clenching, that precedes shivering. The air seems colder now. You push a little harder. Just enough to get warm. You don't want to sweat.

You don't want to cry, either. The ocean is big enough. So you stop thinking about Jack and the kids. Roll over. Get back to some serious swimming. Count your strokes. In a pool it's about fifteen hundred per mile. In open water, usually more. Depends on waves and current. There are no waves out here. Not the breaking kind. Only swells. You rise and fall. Rise and fall. It's made you a little queasy. You also have a niggling headache. Like someone's squeezing your eyeballs. Dr. Hopfner mentioned glaucoma. Not to worry. You don't have it. But your IOP's at the high end of normal. Both eyes. Could complicate things down the road. Something to keep on top of. Did you know swimming goggles have been shown to raise intraocular pressure? Do you still swim? Goodness! No wonder you're so trim!

You start over every thousand strokes. But was it nine or ten? Your arms are heavy. Burning. And, at the same time, a little numb. Breaststroke's just as hard on your lats, but easier on your shoulders, and better for looking around. Not a lot to see, though. Water. Sky. Stars. The spoonful that are visible, anyway. Tough on the knees. For about a hundred strokes, whenever you pull up to breathe, you think you hear a helicopter. Far away. And getting farther. Till it's just your heart thumping in your ears. Seems a waste of energy to try to shake or knock the water out of them. Should've worn earplugs.

Sustained, breaststroke's hard on the neck. It's made your headache worse. Rolling to your back turns your stomach. Turns your queasiness into full blown nausea. Thinking about Skinny's onion rings doesn't help. What goes in a veggie burger? Do meats ever masquerade as vegetables? You need to shit. On the road, you're at the mercy of public washrooms. Restaurants, gas stations and service centers. You can usually hold out longer than Jack. But you get less warning. Still, you both try to sync washroom breaks with refueling. If you don't need gas, you buy an Almond Joy and something to drink. You feel like you should pay something. You wonder if whales ever hold it in, either as an exercise or out of some sort of marine etiquette. But you're just visiting. No holding back for you. You push. Sync it with your whip kicks. No wiping after. Nice thing about being naked in the middle of the ocean. Cleans you right up. Like a giant bidet.

It helped. You feel less nauseated. Less bloated. But your head still hurts. All the way down your neck and back, really. Whoever said swimming out into the ocean as far as you can was a good way to die probably never tried it. Or wasn't a very good swimmer. Think about something else. You don't believe Coach Burton had a wife. A family. You remember how obsessively he bit his nails. Probably from being responsible for things over which he had no control. Like your times. Gnawed them till they bled. Right down to the quick. Right into the meat even. Had to have hurt. Probably be prescribed an anticompulsive today. Except when screaming, always had a finger in his mouth. Angry scabs oozing yellow pus. Especially his thumbs. You wonder if they ever got infected. Seemed to infect his breath a little. Your own, too, when blown back into your face. Bile rises up into your throat so, instead of air, you inhale that. And cough. And cough. Makes your head pound. Once, at the YWCA, you took a lifesaving class. Got your certificate. What you're doing now is called a jellyfish float. Tucked into the fetal position, curled like a question mark, you cough into the ocean. Gulp your own saliva and stomach acids. And seawater. Brackish and warm. Like blood. Like urine. Underwater, you vomit. Heave. Bits of veggie burger and deep fried onion and whatever it was you had for dinner... spinach salad and blackened ahi tuna... it all spews from your mouth and nose. Swirls around you. Like chum.

But again, you feel better. Cleansed. Lighter. And thirsty. In lake crossings there's juice and pop. In country crossings there's bottled waters. Sweetened teas. Flavored coffees. Whatever you want. Everywhere you stop. But here there's only your saliva. You swallow. Roll to your back. The stars are gone now. The moon, too. You forge ahead, nonetheless. Feel for the farthest shore. Trust your inner pig. Ignore your thirst. The ache in your shoulders and back. Think about something else. Maybe Coach Burton's eating his fingertips was just his way of sharing your pain. How can you expect to push others to maximum endurance if you aren't willing to suffer yourself? Bleed yourself? That reminds you. He had a scalp condition, too. Maybe eczema. A wreath of scratches and pricks. Always a few tiny flakes of skin sprinkled on his glasses. Thick bifocals that made his eyes look as if they were floating in water.

Try sidestroke. A lifesaving stroke. But, unless you're carrying someone, an inefficient stroke. Asymmetric and slow. Or maybe you just never practiced it enough. Butterfly is almost as fast as the crawl. But more demanding. A woman did once swim Lake Ontario using it, though. Land mammals all instinctively swim doggie paddle. But you wouldn't. Not if your life depended on it. Switch back to breaststroke. Then freestyle crawl some more. Then just lie on your back and kick those big feet without using your arms. Your mouth is dry. A kickboard would be nice. All the salt you've gulped. You feel weak in a way that transcends mere muscle fatigue. Drained at the core. Your headache is back.

But you're almost there. Once, in a psychology class you took back in university, they showed a video of an experiment some psychologists had performed to determine how long rats would tread water before drowning. Some lasted as long as ninety-six hours. Four days. How this knowledge could possibly ever benefit anyone was a complete mystery to you then. You stop. Tread water. Ahead in the distance, you think you see the lights of that city-sized cruise ship again. But then it's gone. The sky and the ocean are black. But with different textures. Seem to reflect one another. Each distorting the other's image. Again and again. Over and over. Like floating between two vast funhouse mirrors.

An assistant coach, whose name you forget, once told you Coach Burton had swum for the University of Michigan. On scholarship. Even qualified for Olympic trials. Made it all the way to the finals despite a very tough field that year. Then missed the two-hundred meter freestyle cut by less than a tenth of a second. Tragic in a way. The relay team took gold that year. All that hard, hard work. You think high school workouts are tough? You have no clue what tough is. Heat after heat, with only a few breaths to recoup. Then, after all that hardship and pain, to lose by a fraction of a second. Difference between a six-figure Wheaties endorsement and coaching high school.

So maybe Coach Burton just wanted for you what he couldn't give himself. You wonder if he chewed his nails off to keep from scratching his head. Funny how a man can come into focus after so many years. Be seen clearer at a distance. You always wondered why you never saw him in the pool. Never saw him swim. Maybe the chemicals.

You try a few more strokes. But, no. Nothing left. And so here you are. Finished. You made it. As far as you can go. So thirsty now. You look up at the starless sky. Feel like you should say goodbye or something. But instead say, Help. Not loud. Not to attract attention. Not even as a prayer. You don't pray. Wouldn't to save your life. You say it only as a kind of joke. Between yourself and the universe: Help. Still you can laugh.

A hissing sweeps across the water. You hear the rain before you feel it. Then splashing all around you. Mottling the ocean's smooth surface. At first you think it's a bad thing. Just more water. You feel hope sink. Yourself, too. From below the surface, the rain sounds like it's shushing you. Telling you to listen. Then you realize: it's a gift. And rise up as from the dead. As if reborn. Lie on your back. Feel it pelt your eyes and face. Open your mouth and drink. And drink. Drink until all is quiet. Until the stars return.

Again you try to swim. To forge ahead with your plan. Again your limbs refuse to obey. Your arms are numb. Legs, too. Only your lungs still burn. Only your heart still aches. Everything else feels like rubber. So this is it. This really is as far as you can go. Behind you, as if to agree, and to confirm the correctness of your course, dawn shimmers on the horizon. Offering guidance. Promising warmth. In a few minutes the entire sun will peer up over the edge of the world. Rising as it fell. You wonder when humans stopped worshiping it, and why. You feel a warm gust of wind in your face. Like Coach Burton's breath. Feeling has returned, accompanied by a prickling in your extremities. Still, you cannot swim any farther. Not another stroke. Not ahead.

And so there you are. Two directions remaining. Down into the unfathomable. The inevitable. Or back into the morning's light. And whatever else awaits. All or nothing, now. Nothing, or all... And so you pirouette. Turn. Reverse course. Breathe. Stroke. Roll. Breathe. You probably look like the financial planner's wife. The way she does her laps. Stroke. Roll. Breathe. Still, progress is progress. Pain a blessing. Endurance unfathomable. This you have learned. This he has taught you well. Crab-walking along beside you. With that awkward crouching stride that must've killed his knees. At times, stooped almost as in prayer. Keeping pace. Bringing you home. Just as you remember. Bent down with that thorny crown. Those drowning eyes. Leaning right out over the water. One hand on the deck for support, and, in the other, holding forth, clenched in bloody fingers - not for you to read, but only to emphasize the importance of time remaining - his silver stopwatch. Screaming, blowing your breath back into your face. Every time you breathe: Swim goddammit! Swim!


  1. A slow, horrifying swim of a tale...loved it. Jeanne has so much time to think about what she's doing, as does the reader as we swim along with her, wondering if her survival instinct is ever going to kick in. Great ending.

    1. Thanks for the kind words. Glad it worked for you. I appreciate your taking the time.

  2. Moves from the mundane to the very thoughtful and allegorical.

    1. Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts, much appreciated.

  3. Interesting story. The woman thinks more about her swimming coach in high school than her husband as she consciously swims out never to return. She has no fear and no thoughts of death. Cataracts yes..this lack of feeling hints at a deeper malaise or an existential choice to go out doing what she did best, no connection with her husband at the end, only thoughts of the coach urging her on. A bit of a horror story really.

    1. She does turn back....that is a fitting ending.

    2. Never occurred to me, her thinking more about her coach than her husband. Though she does express some guilt. I felt that her AMD, which was causing her blindness and is incurable, was what bothered her most, but you're right about there being some greater existential malaise. Glad the ending worked. Thank you for commenting.

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  5. Wow, loved it. The somber mood is set early and builds throughout (sort of like it has in her life). The flow of consciousness style worked brilliantly with this piece. I found myself, surprisingly, wishing for her to reach the end she wanted... of course, she then turns around at the end... making the conclusion even more bitter sweet.

    1. Thanks you, James! Glad the 2nd person POV worked well for you. I like your take on the ending, although somehow, I don't know how, I like to imagine she makes it. Really appreciate your taking the time to comment.

  6. This stirs the deep animosity of snowbirds and their invasive nature which I harbor. Otherwise, this is a thoughtful, deep exploration of the nature of aging and the feelings of futility that comes with it. How does one come to terms with the inevitability of death? Do we come to terms with it and make peace with it or do we simply give up?

  7. This is so well written. The pacing draws us along on her journey, both inner and outer. Brilliant description of the swimming, the strokes, her nausea and the vomit scene. A story I never would have thought of. I loved it. But I so wanted her to make it home.

  8. As others have said, this story has excellent pacing. It really draws the reader in. And I always love ambiguous endings. I find they make stories linger much more for me and cause me to go back over important details I may have missed.