So I return. I don't have anything profound to lay out at the moment, I just wanted to share this piece I have stolen out of Nam Le's forthcoming short story collection entitled, The Boat (Knopf, May 2008). I have always been a swimmer - though now I don't hit the pool as often as I should. So, this excerpt from Le's story, Tehran Calling, just leapt out at me. My full review of Mr. Le's collection is now available for your reading pleasure over at KPBS's Culture Lust.
To think about it now, the closest she'd ever come to real happiness had been by herself: swimming at the local indoor pool before work. She liked the silence of new morning, the crisp smell of chlorine, the high stained windows that, during summer, filtered the light through like bottled honey. Sometimes, when she was first to arrive, the rectangle of unbroken water shone with the hardness and sheen of copper. She liked the companionship she shared with the other swimmers - all serious swimmers at that hour - the feeling of being alone, unrequired to commit any of the compromises required of human interaction, and yet a part of them; her mere presence the stamp of her belonging. Here she belonged. She liked standing on the blocks, goose-pimpled, second-guessing, and then the irretractable dive into cold water - the sheer switch of it against her skin - she was wet now, cold - her hair wet - and there was nothing to do but to swim herself warm. Lap after lap she would swim: pure sound and feeling; matching the rhythm of her strokes to the pace of her breathing, the ribbed circuit of air through her body. Conditioning herself into a kind of peace. Then, afterward - home.