Hit the water, melt into the cold, head goes under, arms circle, a silken glide, above and below, breathe and exhale, liquid then air, in and then out, emerge then descend, think and then don't. Repeat. Take a breath. Sink. Deep. Deeper. To the bottom. The world through a watery prism. Like for Dustin Hoffman in that incredible scene in The Graduate. There's something amazing about swimming, once it gets hold of you it's hard to shake off, like droplets.
Have you ever become addicted to exercise? Started to crave the escape, the endorphin hit? Chase it, plan for the next? It's easily done. It's the reason I went swimming despite having a cold. I ignored it and now I'm here in bed, another day fading through the crack in the bedroom curtain, occasional fireworks glimpsed climaxing above rooftops, missing a night out with mates to celebrate a birthday.
The head cold morphed into something worse, something insidious, pernicious, that infiltrated my system, washed through my defences, brought me down flat like a well-executed terror plot.
I remember part of a poem in my Child's Anthology of Poetry, by Robert Louis Stevenson, The Land of Counterpane: "When I was sick and lay a-bed, I had two pillows at my head, And all about me toys did lay, To keep me busy all the day."
He had a weak chest, Robert Louis Stevenson, a tendency to coughs and fevers as a child. Like many of the Romantic poets, like the Brontes, he died quite young: age 44. I'd like to give my illnesses a romantic spin, imagine I have a poet's lungs, if not the talent to go with them. If I'd lived in the 19th century and not this one I'd probably have succumbed to consumption by now.
I don't have toys about me on my counterpane but I do have stuff on the duvet: newspapers, books, Kindle, iPhone and, crucially, a laptop. I could do some work or continue writing something of my own, or I could carry on watching Homeland in the daytime, the ultimate sin. I started watching it when Eldest was back at half-term. We watch stuff together, we did the whole of Twin Peaks, Fargo, Breaking Bad. All I have to do is log in to the Netflix account, press 'continue watching' and...
So this is how I find myself gorging on episode after episode. Finish, click, play, forward through the titles,"previously on Homeland," back to suburban, paranoid, Star-Spangled Banner, flag on the immaculate front lawn, spooked-out, Washington DC. Filling myself in so I can watch season five: the ultimate debrief.
I take a break between episodes. It's warm. I open the bedroom window, remove clothing, lie on the bed. Wind rattles the loose casement, curtains flutter, guns flare from the office where Youngest is playing a computer game. I shut the laptop. Sleep...
Later. It's dark. The familiar room is alien, menacing, full of shapeless forms. Is it day or night? Week or weekend? I'm bathed in sweat. The door opens. Did someone open it or is it the wind? Where am I? In a cabin in the woods by a lake with a handsome marine. He's strong, intelligent, a tortured soul. Gunfire ricochets. A shell explodes overhead. Is he friend of foe? Only I can save him. He approaches the bed. Something amazing is going to happen, something erotic, poetic, life-changing, defining, cleansing, a rebirth, an epiphany.
"I'm doing soup," says Husband, "chicken broth or pea and ham?"
Love E x
P.S. Turns out 'binge-watch,' to watch multiple episodes of a television programme in rapid succession, is the Collins Dictionary word of the year 2015. I watched 22 episodes of Homeland in one weekend. So I caught the zeitgeist as well as the flu.