That was twenty-five years ago, however, and after four laps in the twenty-five yard pool the Loser had to stop and spend several minutes catching his breath. After that, he had to stop after every two laps and recover. He is that old and out of shape.
The Loser has always loved to swim. The feel of water giving support. The forced rhythm of breathing once underway. He got serious about it when he spent a few months living in Western Australia in 1989. He lived near an Olympic-size pool where for a dollar he could swim all day. It was an outdoor pool, which suited the climate around Perth. He went every day.
|The men's locker room the Loser uses at the pool.|
There’s a cliché about learning that says you can’t learn how to swim by reading a book. That’s only partially true. A book about swimming the Loser found at a library in Perth taught him that his freestyle stroke was all wrong. He modified it and began to swim faster and for longer.
His favorite form of exercise—bicycling—is out now because of the painful knee of his crippled leg. The Loser has wanted to swim for ages but, poor and unemployed, he didn’t think he’d be able to find a place to swim that he could afford. He was wrong. A local college offers lap swimming year round in the mornings for just $30 a month. It’s closed on weekends, but that’s not a problem for the Loser in his current unemployed situation.
|If it's been awhile, those first laps can be tiring.|
The other swimmers are middle-aged, like the Loser. There are only five lanes, but so far he hasn’t had to wait for one. (He gets there by 6:30, which helps.) Swimming seems easy and it is in terms of impact and force, but after doing it the Loser realized that swimming is like lifting a light weight hundreds of times and he felt a pronounced but pleasant ache from it the next day. He still does. Today, his third, he swam six laps nonstop several times. He’ll never be the swimmer he was twenty-five years ago, but he hopes to get in some kind of shape again soon.