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Blog

How to Swim Naked

Joanna Campbell

17 stepping in Life can survive in the constant shadow of illness, and even rise to moments of rampant joy, but the shadow remains, and one has to make space for it.” —Diane Ackerman from One Hundred Names for Love

You pull back the curtains shielding you from the ocean view. Rub your eyes. Step back from the window frame. Your body tells your head it is time to visit the water. The child in you remembers this need. You take a walk with your husband to the beach. The sun dips beneath the lagoon. Your husband brings his portable speaker and iPod tucked in one of his vest pockets, the kind of vest that makes him look like an explorer. He plays Yo-Yo Ma Bach sonatas. You wander toward the middle of the beach where there are piles of seashells. You search for the shells that catch your eye. Your husband is drawn to the broken pieces. “It wouldn’t be hard to turn this into a blade,” he says as a curious child. You look for moon shells, even the shattered ones, and you look for tiny shells that are complete except for a hole you can slip thin cord through and make a tiny shell garland. You watch watermelon clouds streak over the lagoon, radiating behind three towering condos. Still beautiful, you think. You turn to your husband and tell him you’re tempted to skinny dip. He wanders toward the surf and stares at the waves. You turn your gaze to the piles of seaweed and shells mixed with a plastic bottle cap and cigarette butts. You soon realize that staring hard at the litter will not make it disappear. You look up in time to see your husband—running—into the water—stark naked—a smile filling his entire face—giddy. You rush toward his crumpled clothes and get stuck on a knot in the leg of your pants. You do not want to miss this moment. You have never been naked in the ocean with your husband. Never. You work the knot as fast as you can. Strip down. Run to the water and into the rolling waves. “Woooo! This is cold,” your husband shouts. You both laugh and shriek and smile and hold each other. The water holds you, and something…leaves your body. In a split second, three worries accidentally slip into the Gulf Stream. The needling fear a cough may be symptomatic of something worse, a splinter in the toe will become infected, a spider bite will make your husbands beautiful body go septic. The water makes you forget these ghosts for the time being. It’s only a few minutes, and your husband is ready to get out. First, a kiss, you say. You kiss a slippery salty kiss. Your husband walks tall out of the water. You remain and dive into the waves. Feel the shore on your legs, bottom, and back—places normally covered in elastic and polyamide. You love this feeling. You walk out of the water and say a silent thank you for the laughter and dripping. You dress in what is only necessary. Yo-Yo Ma still plays his cello.

You and your husband walk side-by-side, in the gathering darkness, back to the condo. You bob up and down on the white sand. Your bra pokes out of your pocket. Your husband is in his boxers and carries his shorts folded over one arm. He looks good in the straw hat he purchased at the Orange Beach hardware store. You pass the parking attendant who is giving a tour to visitors. “Good evening,” she smiles. “Good evening,” your husband returns. You enter the elevator with your husband, two buoys riding up, hungry for gumbo and music and dance. The light from your kitchen can be seen from the jetty a half-mile away where the beach and the water and the sky are now one inky color. The neighbors must surely wonder about the distant Cajun melodies and the smell of roux drifting down condo corridors. Tonight, the two of you will sleep inside a star.