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The Swimmers

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It has been so long since you last went swimming. And yet, somehow, your body remembers. Your arms curl in that familiar motion, pushing away water and thrusting through it to give you momentum. There is nothing graceful about it. You are a land creature, maintaining the momentary delusion that you belong under the sea. Not one part of your body is truly convinced. Not your limbs suppressing the urge to propel you out of the water to the safety of the air, not your lungs craving that same air and rationing the little that remains in your lungs. You have always found a strange peace in this liminal space between the desire to be in the water and the desire to be out of it. It is a true and honest space, embodying the essence of being alive.

When you were younger, you made a game of holding your breath under water. No friend or cousin could surpass your many minutes submerged. You could have swam professionally, but your calling was elsewhere. You became a lawyer. It was in your second year of practice that a clerk briefed you on a case. The clients, a father, mother and their two children, wanting a better life, had fled their country of origin. The last leg of their journey had been by boat. Until it wasn’t. They swam the remainder of the way. You were a good lawyer, but this case was different. With most cases, your brain understood, with this one, your body also understood. They were swimmers like you. They had thrust their bodies onto the boundary of life and death. But for them, it was not a game. 

You took cases of swimmers for three years straight, fighting for their freedom with the fervour of a woman gasping for air. You had only taken public holidays, and even then, you immersed yourself in case files as church bells rang out for Easter or Christmas. When your colleagues realised this, they forced you to take a proper holiday. 

“Somewhere warm, with a beach,” had been the suggestion.

So here you are, in the ocean, swimming for the first time in many years. You realise that there is a difference. You have always felt the peace, but it is deeper now. You feel so powerfully free, and alive. And you know it is because they, the other swimmers, are alive and free. 

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