The 100 Mile Club in the 100 Degree Heat

“I noticed you were wearing a full body suit,” Too Tan Woman smiles, shy now after enthusing over vanilla scents and associations with pudding. I’d initially started talking to her because she smelled so good. The vanilla essence wafting through the locker room, even overpowering the chlorine. “Is that you that smells so good?”

“Oh, yes!”

I know I’m not in Berkeley anymore. Or anywhere in the Bay Area where scented products are to be avoided as they cause allergic reaction to some members.
“It’s interesting the different reactions I get to the scent,” she gushed, warming to the topic.
“Why I had these two women exclaim about how I smelled like burnt toast. And one of my students, I was a school nurse, asked me if I’d share my cupcakes with him!”
I’d grinned, liking the Cupcake Nurse image.

But after her Cupcake giggle, her tone turned serious about the full body suit. And my answer was measured. I don’t mind talking about it, but I do mind having to worry about it. So now, when she’d asked about the full body suit, I sigh inwardly.

“Yeah….I have to wear the full body suit,” I answered, thinking how it was way too sunny at the Shasta Family YMCA. The pool was outdoors. There was no shade. The temp was 106 and climbing. And it was high noon. But for one day, on vacation, I figured, what the hell. I can swim in this divine little pool. It’s just once and I’ll wear my sun gear.
Besides, this time I remembered my suit so I have the added layer of protection!
“Is it because of skin cancer?” she asks, toweling her wet hair off in the quiet little locker room.
“If you don’t mind my asking, was it Melanoma?”

“Yeah, it was,” I shake my head. “But you know, I’m fine now. I don’t usually swim outdoors like this in the middle of the day in the 100 degree heat.” I try not to stare at her too tan leathery skin. She is so dark! It’s scary! Does she swim in the middle of the day like this every day here in Redding? Swimming here even once is so daunting to me.

She nods, “Yes, that’s good, I’m glad to hear it…..” She paused, contemplating for a moment, before plunging onward: “I did have some cancer removed from my upper lip. Can you see?” She points her chin toward me. I can’t really see anything and tell her so.

“Yeah, well, it was an ordeal.” She goes on in too much detail about the procedure. I start to feel funny. Why do people insist on telling you all the specifics of their medical procedures? Don’t they know that some of us can’t handle it? But she had been a school nurse. So, she was probably completely unaware of the impact of her medical details on a squeamish swimmer like myself. But then, because she was a trained medical professional, wouldn’t you think she’d be more careful about the sun, esp after her ‘procedure’? It didn’t make any sense to me. Why wasn't she swimming in the late afternoons? Why wasn’t she in a full body suit herself? Or hell, why wasn't she swimming in an indoor pool!

I make several sympathetic cooings to try to cover up my squeamishness and my unease around her sun denial behavior. I want her to stop talking about the medical details, but don’t know how to waylay her. Could I distract her with another subject?
“How long have you been swimming?” I interrupt.
“Oh, not long,” she giggles softly. “I’m not a real swimmer like you. I actually started swimming cause I wanted these sweats that said ‘100 mile club’ on the sides. I really wanted those sweats! They were so cute! But then I knew I could never swim 100 miles so I put it out of my mind. But I kept thinking about those sweats. And so one day, I just decided, goddammit, I’m going to do it. I’m going to swim 100 miles. So what if it takes me a year. Or 2. Or 5. I really want those sweats!”
“Fashion Motivation!” I exclaim.
“Precisely! And you know, I did swim that 100 miles. And I got those sweats!” She beams.
“That’s so great. And now you swim all the time?”
“Yes, well, like I said, I’m not a Real Swimmer like you….”
Her voice trails off, wistful. I didn’t take note of her in the pool very closely other than to notice that she did use a kick board and she did wear a white visor. So, yes, I’d agree she might not be a ‘Real Swimmer’.

However, she did swim that 100 miles for those sweats, so that counts for something, right? But I was still worried about her skin. Why? I don’t know. It wasn’t like I would ever see her again. But there was something about her story that made me uneasy.
Yet what could I do? If she wanted to swim out in the middle of the day in the 100 degree heat, then it was her choice, right?

But maybe, just maybe, she might think about it a bit more after chatting with me. She might get herself a full body suit. She might not swim in the middle of the day. She might spare herself any more bouts of skin cancer and avoid Melanoma.

“Well, nice chatting with you,” she paused for a moment, smiling at me.

“Yes, you too,” I answer, deciding not to chide her about the dangers of swimming outdoors. She knows it and for whatever reason, the swimming is worth it.
I get this. Swimming is everything.
Yet, I do hope she gets a full body suit. She could even paint 100 mile club on the leggings!
Now wouldn’t that be fun? I grin to myself as I pack up my gear and head back out into the 100 degree heat to meet Ian, the smell of cupcakes and burnt toast lingering in the hallway......


Ruth Jameson said…
What a sweet story ... PP I don't often sit in the Sun for the same reasons that you avoid swinging in the daylight...but some mornings after the grey goes away, it is Irresistible !!!
Cj said…
Thanks for reading, Ruthie. Yes, the sun is seductive, but I just resist its call. Too scary with near miss of Melanoma! I do hope, though, that this Cupcake Nurse gets a full body suit at the very least. I was really worried about her!

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