Post Road Magazine #24

A Woman in Brine

Kate Crane

I walk back to the house, swim shoes sloshing, pink towel a swath of meaningless between my shoulders and the downpour. Ahead of me, on the asphalt, I come upon an arrow I've never seen before. Big and yellow, a little jaunty, it points toward the sewer grate, into which a river of rainwater is rushing.

Whose bright idea was that? Rushing water has no trouble with flow. And it sure as hell doesn't follow directions. That the arrow's beck coincides with this water's calling is nothing but coincidence.

Since I started swimming, two weeks ago today, I've increased the length and number of my laps with every swim. But today is different. Torrential downpour after torrential downpour has been soaking people I know from Baltimore to Ottawa; maybe the whole world is raining. When I set out, there'd been no thunder or lightning for three hours, but the rain is steady. And I don't have much faith in my ability to do real laps.

So instead I swim out twice as far as usual. I paddle past the buoy, striped red, white, and blue. Out to the row of boats, which I see every day but haven't yet touched. The first one has a license number painted on its side: R.I. 74443. It shows no signs of life, only lonely seats and cushions wrapped up in plastic.

Sea and sky are the color of gunmetal. I hover by the boats, a splash of glaring white skin. To be out there right now is to be pelted. There's just no relief, except when I go under.

Earlier this afternoon I wrote to Lochart, "I wonder if it's dangerous to swim in the rain? Maybe just if there's thunder. And/or big waves." He sees no problem with it, replying, "The downside is the soggy towel when you get out. And the absence of drying/warming sun." That's good enough for me. After all, my ocean is just a bay, and he did beat back a rip current some years ago in Costa Rica or Peru.

I swim to the shore, figuring I'll head home. I'm probably going to catch a cold from being out on a cold day in cold rain, immersed in cold water. My towel waits in a garbage bag in the sea grass; I'll be dry for at least a minute. But when I rise up out of the water, I promptly turn around and sink back in. This time I swim out even farther.

When I first struggled into this water two weeks ago, a question popped into my head. What happens to a woman who steeps in brine?

I already know the answer.

She can't stop.

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