My parents divorced when I was 10. My mother went to night school to become a medical secretary. During the day, she worked as a restaurant hostess. Often I'd find her fallen asleep at the kitchen table. She worked hard, but with little reward. The year of the divorce, her earnings were $16,000. After she graduated, she found a job at the local hospital. Seeing her life had settled down, she started dating again. She never dated anyone too long. She was often in the stage of a relationship where she felt she had to impress the guy. If he went away on a business trip, she vowed to my brother and I that she would lose 10 pounds while he was gone.
I told this to my boyfriend on Tuesday when he left for Japan for three weeks. I told him rather than losing as much weight as I possibly could, I would read as many books as I possibly could. Fortunately, there is a good library in town. It's day three and I've read books five and six of the Lady Detective series and Steve Martin's Shopgirl.
I finished reading Shopgirl in the bathtub this evening. I was in the bath, trying to stave off the droplets of depression that were inking their way into my head. These droplets have plagued me since puberty, and without action on my part, they cloud my perception to its negative worst. I find myself a waste of time to my friends who are saints to put up with my horrible company. I cannot possibly graduate. I am a bad dog owner. I am an ugly human being.
In water, I find some relief from the little droplets. If it is a mild case, I take a bath. If it is a severe case, I must go to the swimming pool. I am comforted by the water. I relax, and the droplets rinse off me, bouncing away like warm mercury.
While bathing, I read a passage in Shopgirl about "The Conversation" people sometimes have about the rules of a relationship. The sayer explaining to the listener that they should both "Keep Their Options Open." The sayer is not heard, for the listener interprets it in a hopeful way. The sayer inwardly proclaims the relationship fair and will unintentionally harm the listener in the coming months.
Reading such a passage was not useful to my task. I've been the listener. I've heard similar speeches. I've been harmed. Small scabs were picked at and reopened. The droplets were absorbed further into my psyche, like a weary father coming home from graveyard shift, whispering "I'm home" to his household.
In this state, I am at the precipice of a possible emotional tail-spin. The act of self-loathing begins. I look down at my body in the bath tub and I hate it. I hate the extra weight I carry in my thick thighs. I hate my belly's overhang and its verticle stripe of black hair. I hate the horizontal gulch in my midsection where my pants clutch at my wasteline. I hate my face's suggestion of a double chin. I hate that I'm almost thirty and still hate my body. My life is a waste of time.
The bath has failed. I dress quickly in a flannel shirt and yoga pants. I drive to a campus pool. I go to a pool I've never gone before because the first campus pool has closed. The pool is hidden inside a building on the National Registry of Historic Places. The 12 foot ceilings are ticked by arches with guilded details. The wooden doors have wire reinforced windows. I find the locker room and change into my swimsuit. At the door to the pool, I inhale deeply to test my asthmatic lungs. I gauge that they will suffice without medication.
The pool is almost empty on this Friday night. There are two Chinese lap swimmers. The lifeguard is text-messaging something on his phone. I enter the pool and begin to swim. One of two things might happen. I might ease through water with strong arms and strong legs for a prescribed 30 minutes. I might fight the water and feel my lungs weaken. My laps could leave me escaped from the droplets, relaxed and too tired to let them in. My laps could leave me exhausted, frustrated and too weak to fight them.
I exit the pool, tired but successful. Leaving the building, still admiring the architecture, I am reminded of the Kennedy School in Portland. I imagine turning the corner to go to the movie theatre at the corner of the building to watch Dr. Strangelove for only $3. I marvel at how I am homesick after four years here, but I'm feeling okay.
Tomorrow will be better.