At the square indoor pool where I have been doing physical therapy, the guy in charge bears a passing resemblance to the comic Dave Chapelle. His voice, however, is *exactly* like Chapelle’s. The same exaggeratedly blase delivery; but he is not trying to be funny. Al, his name is.
Al is not in charge of me. I work one on one with a physical therapist named Tanya. When I am already suited up and waiting on the bench beside the hot and fragrant pool, she rattles in with the beige contraption that appears to be a much larger than necessary laptop holder. I’d say it comes to her chest. She is unusually trim and fit, with mesmerizing muscled legs I cannot help but notice from my vantage point below her as I await her instructions.
Al is always there, because he is in charge of the pool and because he leads the aqua fitness classes of old women. This rehab facility is owned by Eden Medical Center, and I guess I’ve driven past a thousand times without ever seeing it. It is one of those worlds that appears in your life when you need it, contains a lively and ongoing culture and a part of you for a time, and then disappears again.
Al directs the ladies in that drone, sometimes starting a new series of reps with, “bicycle time,” or “Inner tube time.” And it is the way that he says “time” that reminds me so much of Dave Chapelle.
Other than once, this exercise class is taking place as Tanya puts me through my paces. First, I warm up by walking six short laps. The pool is not really square. Obviously I have to do this part in the shallower end, which is mainly where the class is taking place. So sometimes I find myself walking alongside these ladies if they are doing the same. Other times I am actually weaving in and out of their ranks as I sidestep or backwards walk. They are genial and sometimes forget to listen to what Al is saying or to exercise at all, because they get sidetracked by their conversations. They are black and white ladies and everyone gets along. Al always has music going, and often the talk is of the tunes and whether or not they recognize/can hear the songs. Today the song list contained Dionne, the Platters, Otis Redding, Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, and of course more. I know these songs even though many were hits long before I hit the scene.
Other exercises I do are bicycling, scissors, and “nordic track” in the deep end, one of those foam noodles holding me aloft. I like to zen out and the faint current sometimes carries me back near the shallow end, where the class members are.
There is a certain part of my hip that brought me here for pool therapy. Walking hurts quite a bit. I still feel a stabbing pain when I do certain of these exercises, but the stabbing is gentler now than when I started.
The changing room contains the ladies’ sandals, shampoos, tote bags. There is an ASPCA calendar whose August cover models are rats. There is a greeting card from someone named June that says she misses everyone. I usually arrive with my bathing suit on under my clothes, but today I had to change there because it took me forever to locate my bathing suit and I finally realized it was lying across the back seat of my car, where i left it to dry on a small white towel two days ago..
The door to the pool has a sign that announces that anyone who is currently experiencing diarrhea or has experienced diarrhea in the past 14 days should not enter the pool. Another sign, inside, announces in separate sparkling letters, “P.O.O.L.C.L.A.S.S.” I am not clear on whether this class is helping me, but I do not want to leave. I do not wash the chlorine off of me before heading to work, because I like the smell of it on my skin.
Bidar means awake. Patricia Bidar is a writer and California native looking forward to life’s third act.