Swimming with tears

Morning swimming is a habit I’m trying to forge now that I’m finally settled. I joined a health club within easy walk of my home. The challenge is persuading myself to get out of bed early and walk there! I’m retired and could swim at any time of the day — but I know from experience that it’s something I need to get done first thing — else I’ll never get around to it.

Swimming while Alene is on her bus to work seems to be working rather well — because I can listen to her podcast while I swim. I expect there is such a thing as a waterproof iPod and earbuds — but I don’t need any equipment — just close my eyes and tune into her ears. The bus ride is around thirty minutes, but I try to be in the water a bit before Alene leaves to give myself a bit more time. Then I get out of the pool as she gets off the bus — and by the time she’s at her desk with her coffee, I’m back in my apartment enjoying a cup of tea.

Alene is finally adjusted to my living in her part of Seattle — but she’s still skittish about running into me — as she discovered last Saturday night. We went to bed rather early and listened to an episode of PRI Selected Shorts — with two short stories we had heard before (this podcast does a lot of repeats.)

The first was about an American who is just minutes away from the happiest moment of his life — on a family holiday in Scotland. It’s a story with almost no action — just his thoughts as he watches his wife and two teenaged children nap on the train. It’s awfully charming — but I was very tired and dozed off. I’ll let Alene take over with what happened next…

As I lay listening with my eyes closed, I suddenly found myself in a beautiful room. The wooden floor had an absolutely perfect satiny finish — and the room was bathed in sunshine from the windows — not the bright, aggressive sunshine of summer which bothers me so — but the gentle, low-angle sunshine of an autumn morning.

My attention was drawn to the door, which I knew led out to the front porch. Although I didn’t recognize the room, it was somehow familiar to me. But I couldn’t bring myself to walk out the door to the front porch — because I knew I’d find him out there — and I just wasn’t ready to meet him — even though it would be the happiest moment of my life.

I started weeping — from a sudden rush of joy — but at the same time I found myself sobbing, “I’m not ready yet. I can’t do it. Not right now. I’m not ready yet.”

Three years ago, I (we) read The Age Of Innocence by Edith Wharton — and we both held our breath as Newland Archer stood on a street in Paris gazing up at the window of the apartment where Ellen Olenska lived — only to walk away. I was overwhelmed with grief at the very idea — and sat in the coffee shop clutching my Nook with my face turned to a wall so that no one would see the tears pouring down my face. My Nook stayed parked on that final page for over a year.

This idea keeps visiting us.

But I just can’t imagine myself walking out onto the porch.