It’s finally warm enough to go swimming.
Or at least I think so during all the time I spend navigating bends and some oncoming traffic on the narrow dirt road to our destination: a fork formed by the coastline, three prongs of land reaching into the lake. We walk through another forest of conifers and birches and blueberries, our towels and swimming trunks in hand, until we reach the end of the first one.
I’ve reconsidered my opinion on the temperature, but don’t want to turn around either, so I find a spot of sunlight between the trees and stand there for a while and try to soak up as much warmth as possible.
We leave our clothes on a boulder taller than us, protecting them from the ubiquitous ants and other insect life to some degree. I grow goosebumps in the wind despite the sun and move on towards the water quickly before I lose all courage. D leads the way, stepping down into the water over more rocks and wading farther out between the trees with the occasional encouraging yell of pain when he steps onto a particularly sharp rock. I follow more carefully.
When I reach D, grimacing as the cold waves climb up my crotch, he suggests we wash each other down. I have trouble imagining anything I currently want less than having cold water splashed on my shoulders to evaporate in the similarly cold wind, so I refuse the passive part and suspiciously dodge any movement he makes even vaguely in my direction while I wash him down. He behaves well enough, although he seems to think I need that for some reason. Unbidden, I remember adults guiding me through the same process when I was a child: carefully splashing my arms and shoulders and belly before I went into the water fully during hot summer days to ease my body into the transition from heat to cold.
Given that I’m already cold, I don’t think it’s necessary for me today.
“Okay”, D says eventually, fixing me with a wary gaze that tells me he’s not quite confident I’ll follow him deeper into the water. “On three?”
“No”, I say, almost without thinking. Feeling the pressure grow during the count sounds nearly panic-inducing.
“On three and you count?”
“No”, I repeat, this time pausing to think about what I actually want. “You go on three, and I’ll follow.”
“Hm“, he says. I wait, not quite sure what he thinks I’ll do instead. Turn around and leave?
Eventually he kicks off and swims, and just a moment later I get the impulse to do the same and simply follow, no external or internal pressure needed. I fix my gaze on the spot on the fork’s next prong D is aiming towards and focus on swimming to distract myself from the cold. The wind throws waves into our faces, and D to my right frequently sputters.
Just as we climb ashore, the sun hides behind a cloud, and I am left to shiver in shadows. D hugs me in an attempt to warm me, but the heat generated by his ample muscles doesn’t get through the fat and skin cooled down from the water yet, so it doesn’t really help.
We walk along the peninsula: conifers and blueberries as usual, but moss-covered boulders as special attraction. I recognize it from last year: M and I jumped from boulder to boulder, playing “the floor is lava”, outdoing each other in how far we could get. The moss is much kinder to my bare feet than the pathless ground covered in broken branches, pinecones, needles, ants, dried leaves and scratchy brush, so I repeat the exercise as far as possible. Maybe I should have kept my sandals on – swimming would have been harder with the added resistance, but my soles are definitely too soft and tender for such rough treatment.
When we’ve reached the end, we get back into the water to swim to the next. It’s a bit farther than the first stretch – I roll onto my back a few times in between to take short breaks, and still feel the exertion in my arms and the strain in my neck when we reach dry land.
“This borders on sports”, I tell D as we climb ashore, shivering once again.
“Strength and endurance sports”, he confirms.
We walk along a forest path to a wooden jetty and rest up there. I pick some blueberries from between cobwebs and step on prickly needles and pinecones. Even with plenty of sunlight – the clouds mercifully leave it alone this time – , my skin remains gooseflesh, and even though I’d like to swim back for the exercise, the novelty and sense of adventure has worn off enough for the cold to deter me. When D asks me whether I want to swim back or walk along the shore, I look over the water and grimace, so we walk.
You really, really learn to appreciate shoes when red ants bite your bare feet every few steps, and little twigs and pine needles poke your soles every other few steps, and you have to keep perpetual watch for pinecones, because those are even worse. (Needles bend when you step on them. Pinecones do not.)
We eventually reach our clothes (and shoes!), hang out a bit longer, and then make our way back to the car. I drive home without any accidents, and then I eat everything I have left – whether it’s the swimming or all the shivering, the outing has left me starving.
D is of the opinion that he hasn’t had enough exercise yet and spends the evening working out on the porch, so I look for something to watch by myself. There are a few movies I’d like to (re-)watch that D doesn’t, including the sequel to Pitch Black (The Chronicles of Riddick) – actually, I’d like to watch that one most of all. I spend a while trying to guess whether D would want to see that one with me and eventually start in on it alone anyway – if necessary, I can always rewatch it, and this way I can lust after Riddick some more in peace. (D joins later and expresses mock outrage that I’m watching it without him, but declines the offer to restart it, and the second half doesn’t seem to intrigue him enough to rewatch the whole movie another time.)