The acrid tang of chlorine touched the back of my throat as I walked the humid hallway between the change room and the pool doors. As part of the Cross Fit program, we had to take part in a deep water fitness class. My fear of dancing was lifting with every step I took as I exited the change room in a whoosh of stagnant chemicals. I breathed deeply before rubbing my hands together at the thought of normally yoga clad bottoms floating around in bathing suit bottoms not big enough to keep bikini stubble dry. At least for one class I would be able to keep up with the movements and when I couldn’t I would just hide under the water and pretend I was doing something other than making the air fart out of my inflated pockets.
I saw only one person from class standing beside the pool as I made my way toward the deeper water. She was clad in a swimmers suit which while clingy was far too covering for what my brain had imagined would be a ring of synchronized camel toes rising out of the water to Madonna’s “Celebrate” with me in the middle spinning lazy circles. She had a bemused look on her face as she looked at the group already paddling around. She turned and arched an eyebrow at me and I gave her a half-smile before I turned my gaze to see where she had been looking.
There were at least a dozen women already in the pool. I think the youngest of them was in the neighborhood of sixty. There was more wrinkled white skin than the giant vat of Wonton soup at a Chinese buffet. My brain immediately went to the assumption that their class was finishing up and they would be getting out of the water. They were laughing and joking in that way women do when they have seen each other naked one too many times.
I saw the young aquatics instructor wheeling a speaker towards the pool and for one gleeful second I thought she planned on dumping the electric monstrosity into the pool to cook the entire floating mass like some geriatric bouillabaisse.
” Okay, who do I have from Cross Fit?,” she asked and the few of us brave enough to actually show up raised our hands.
“Well don’t be shy,” she laughed ” Join the class.”
I felt a nameless dread. Well, there probably is a long German name for it, like Geschpooklichkeit or something, but I don’t speak German. Anyway, it’s a dread that nobody knows the name for, like those little square plastic gizmos that close your bread bags. I don’t know the name for those either. I heard a splash and saw Dave the Ginger bobbing along beside the Menopause Mafia. There was no way I was going to be upstaged at this point so I cringingly slipped into the water. I swam out to the deepest point and stayed afloat as the music from “Sweatin to the Oldies” started.
I could feel the eyes of the women flicking over to me as I tried to keep pace. Treading water while doing spirit fingers above your head might seem easy but I assure you it isn’t. I began to tire fairly quickly and looked at the clock. Twenty minutes of an hour class had passed. I knew at that exact moment I was going to likely drown and be resuscitated by the Little Mermaid’s grandmother. I began to cheat my way over to the shallower water and sighed a little as I felt my toes touch the bottom of the slope.
” Okay, lets lay on our backs,” I heard the instructor call out and I flipped belly up. I was grateful for the rest as the last series of exercises had been rough. I stared at the ceiling as the next set of instructions were called out. I wasn’t completely sure what I was doing so I lifted my head out of the water to see pasty white flesh rising in unison. I came to a couple of shocking revelations at that moment.
First, I saw the reason why I was nearly drowning and no one else was even losing their breath was the simple fact they were all wearing flotation belts so they didn’t sink to the bottom.
Second, when women raise their legs out of the water when they are laying on their backs a bathing suit bottom doesn’t necessarily cover all of their bottoms. Or their fronts. Or anything in between.
I inhaled sharply and sucked in a huge lungful of water. I coughed harder than a sleeping dog farts trying to expel the liquid and nearly choked myself faint in the process. The instructor blew her whistle once and I saw life guards that I have underwear older than walking towards me. I waved them off and swam slowly over to the edge of the pool. I pulled myself up on the ledge and took a couple ragged breaths.
“You okay,” the instructor asked as she knelt down beside me. Every eye in the entire pool area seemed to be trained on me and every ear listening to my wet coughs.
“I think so,” I answered as I felt tears roll down my cheek ” It’s just the chlorine in the pool.”
I kept repeating “It was just the chlorine, It was just the chlorine” the entire drive home.