My swimming instructor was named Randy, and he was waiting for me at the edge of the pool with his hands on his hips. This was back in 2006 when I was going through what I refer to as my first midlife crisis and on a desperate attempt to lose the thirty pounds that a failing marriage, two kids, and a thankless job had added to my midsection. I’d signed up for swimming lessons at a health club in rural western North Carolina and had been told that Randy was among the best teachers in the area. In retrospect, being one of the best swimming instructors in a town with only one pool that’s 300 miles from the nearest beach was not exactly a glowing endorsement.
Randy was wearing a tiny, black Speedo, which from the front looked like a tarpaulin pulled tight over a flea market table filled with used sporting equipment. I was a little concerned that Randy didn’t have quite the swimmer’s physique I was hoping to achieve. He appeared to be a bodybuilder whose workout schedule had never included a leg day. Barrel-chested and broad shouldered with tiny legs, Randy looked like a giant double-stick Popsicle with a black rubber band around the center.
It was not just that Randy’s legs were so out of proportion to his upper body; they actually appeared to belong to another person altogether. It was as if his Speedo divided two completely different men. From the waist down Randy was rather hirsute, with short black ringlets of hair shooting out from his shins, calves, thighs, and nether regions of his Speedo. But from the waist up he was as smooth and polished as a hardwood floor. Obviously Randy shaved his upper body, but I couldn’t help but wonder, how did he decide where to stop?
Randy instructed me to get into the pool and swim a couple of laps so he could watch my form. I could have saved him the time by telling him that my swimming form was similar to someone who has just stepped on a bee’s nest, or is being attacked by jellyfish, or whose parachute is descending directly toward an alligator farm. After I flailed and kicked my way to the other side of the pool and back again, Randy began describing everything I was doing wrong. But holding onto the edge of the pool and looking up at Randy’s scrawny, hairy legs, all I could think about was what was underneath that Speedo? Where did the hair stop? Was it a straight line, or did he fade it down gradually?
An hour later I was in the locker room changing clothes when Randy entered and headed toward the showers. Now was my chance, I thought and followed after him as nonchalantly as possible. I walked by the row of stalls and glanced toward the one I’d seen Randy enter. And there he was, standing proudly with the curtain wide open, water spraying down over his enormous chest. He was still wearing the Speedo.
For the next six Wednesday evenings, Randy was nothing if not consistent. He never got in the water. He never put on a shirt. He never took off that Speedo. And, he never taught me how to swim.