The Russians can do it!
“The Russians can do it! We can do it!” Annaliese raises her arm in emphatic emphasis. Grins from ear to ear.
I nod, chuckling. She’d been telling me about how she swims at the Richmond Plunge at 8 a.m. on Sunday mornings.
Already, she’s more Russian than I am. 8 a.m. on Sundays? I’m snuggled in bed with the kitty and Ian, dreaming of spaces ships with calico cats and pools with gads of children.
“And I go to the Plunge,” she tells me, her French accent becoming thicker in her excitement of the narrative. “And it is so cold. It is so hard, you know?”
“Oh, yeah. I was going to try to come to the Y last Tuesday night, but it was cold. It was dark. I just stayed home under the electric blanket and watched Supergirl.”
She nods, “Yes, you see? It is hard in the winter. And I go to the Plunge. And when I get in the water, it is warm. It is all over your body…..” She makes a sensuous gesture that only a Frenchwoman can make –is this somehow Frenchist? But you know what I mean? The way she wraps both her arms around herself, and slowly undulates as if she’s climbing into the pool right there at the base of the stairs of the Hilltop YMCA, the hands creating a wave of the water that is wrapping her body in its warm embrace.
“…but then, as you swim, your body, it is in the water and the water, it is cold and your body is now used to the water and so you are cold too.” She shakes her head. It is so sad. The cold water.
But then she brightens, “The Russians can do it. We can do it!”
“You know how they swim in the cold water?”
“Sure,” I grin.
“We can too.”
“Okay, I’ll remember that.”
And we both laugh, but for myself I can’t imagine being Russian. Where do Russian swimmers swim? What cold water is there for their hearty Russian Constitutions? Is it the Black Sea? Is it the Baltic Sea? Is it some goddamn lake on Tolstoy’s estate?
All I do know is that I’m no Russian. I like much of what is Russian. Rachmaninoff. Dostoevsky. Vodka.
Nope, not for me.
Give me the warm tropical oceans of Hawaii any day.
Now there’s a people and a place that I can relate to. And the main reason?
The swimming. It is warm!
The Hawaiians can do it! We can do it too! Swim in the warm warm sea of Waikiki. See the bright yellow fishes.
Drink the Matais.
Do the hula.