Joe Kind: A Guy
I had an extra hour to spare on Sunday, when my two-hour commitment ended unexpectedly early. My body was itching for a workout of some kind. My body does this to me when too many days pass without any real form of exercise. The day was too nice to waste in the gym, though.
I go to the gym and lace on my running shoes. I missed the chance to order the same pair of shoes as the rest of the swim team last year, so I had tried to find another pair similar to the Dartmouth color scheme. The black and neon green pair I ended up with was not what I wanted, but it worked out.
I exited the gym through the back door and saw a blur of people exercising on the football field and its surrounding track. Just two weeks ago the track gates were locked. My plans to run were soon abandoned, and my mind began to race through possible workout options.
A major adjustment to NARPdom is the return to forming workouts on-the-fly. My coaches have always given me workouts, and now I was my own coach, ultimately deciding to exercise however I wanted to in the moment of that particular day. Coach Joe began to signal to the football stands.
For a beautiful 45 minutes or so, under that perfect combination of bright sun and thin air, my body went into a kind of autopilot. My legs hurled up the stadium stairs, and my feet briskly skippered me down. I was plugged in, music banging. A sweaty snapchat for my minute rest, a swim in the river for my cool-down.
As every Dartmouth student knows, with new weather comes new opportunities. This past Saturday and Sunday brought the sunniest and clearest weather I have seen at Dartmouth in a long time. I am not sure I have ever seen so many clusters of people on the Green, sunbathing and studying and everything in between.
I am from San Francisco, where the year’s warmest and coldest days are a mere 20 degrees apart, maybe. My last spring on campus was three years ago. It should come as no surprise, then, that I foolishly suggest to my friends that we take a trip to the river. The sun and the sweat have me thinking a river swim would be so pleasant. Alas.
I bring my backpack and towel with me from the gym. I don’t bother wearing a shirt. I also don’t bother stopping to talk to a friend for very long.
Wheelock Street is long and uneven. I call my friend to pass the time, and to meet me there. She politely declines.
I finally get to the river, and even I know better than to expect an open dock. I bend under the hanging chain, clanging. The few others with my idea perk up from their hammocks and chairs to my disturbance. That was one of those moments where I was thankful to not be wearing my contact lenses. Otherwise I might have had to apologize.
I stumble right up to the edge of where the river dock would normally be, whereupon I see two people — one of my teammates and his girlfriend laying out on the concrete, like two loving lizards in quiet bliss. They were reading, and chatting, just out of sight for my contact-less eyes to recognize them right away. He perks up and says “Hi.” I vaguely recognize his voice, but I can’t quite place it. He cocks his head to one side in confusion. I definitely tried to decode his face for too long. Oops.
I finally realize who they are and begin to claim my own corner of territory. I drop my backpack and towel, take off my running shoes and socks, and strip down to my Speedo. I finally unplug, stand up, and take a breath to appreciate the river and the day.
“It’s really cold, you know,” the girlfriend warns. “Too cold for me, at least.”
I laugh lightly.
“Yeah, probably, me too,” I pause.
“I am from ocean beaches, though,” I say. “We’ll see in a minute.”
I throw one leg over the railing, then the other, and soon hop down onto the rocks. As I look for the best route to the water, searching for the flattest and most stable rocks, I take note of the extreme shift my body has to take from the high-intensity cruise control. Worried for my balance, I think through every possible movement before finally deciding my descent to the edge of the river. I am on my butt at this point, ready to dip my toes into the water. One could have photoshopped Gollum’s body to mine.
Here I finally am, facing fresh river water. My precious.
I slowly dip both of my feet, and realize quickly that the water, while serene, was still not quite ready for swimming. I refused the reality of the situation, at first. I straighten my legs into the water, as well. My legs aren’t so chilled, I say to myself. But my feet are changing colors, from red to light pink.
I reassume the Gollum position. Cradled and calm. Unplugged.
My fingers fiddle a bit with the water. I give myself a light, icy shower. I sit there, and my mind and body travel far away. My teammate and his girlfriendare just behind me. The water glistens, my attentions wanders and the sun sits on my shoulders.
The hunchback of Hanover has reclaimed the river.
Spring is here.