When Lekha swam in the ocean for the first time, she swam like someone was chasing her to kill her. She played the same scene over and over again in her head, a band of rapists swimming like maniacs behind her, almost catching up with her legs now. Now they grab her hair but can’t, now they grab her feet but can’t. In real life, every time some orphaned sea weed or jelly fish moved under her feet, she thought it was the rapist and his rough hands. It gave her thrill, to swim like this, to imagine hands as rough as sand grabbing her by the waist and taking her back against the force of waves and her own unwillingness.
She would wake up at 7 every morning and go for a swim. The cold air mocking how colder it was going to be in there. Like a thousand safety pins pricking your body all at once, like the warm brush of concrete on skin, your heart coloring its presence in your body. It’s for this moment of feeling more alive than ever that she went for the early morning swim. Not in the noon, when the ocean was calmer and the sun was friendlier.
She looked forward to the tingling sensation on her body, the hair on her arm standing up in agreement with hair everywhere else, the wind washing her face. She would lay on the sand until it got hot and run back home for a long shower.
She did this regularly after her father passed away. He was an architect. He would often talk about moving into the cottage by the beach. Sometimes she would dream of him and wake up crying. There wouldn’t be any rapists chasing after her on those mornings. Her father’s voice would call out to her from under the ocean and she would want to drown in that melody.
She was an explorer in the morning, and a swimming coach by evening. She taught 11 year old boys to swim. On her way back home, she would stop at Kanti’s shop and pick up ready made upma mix. After another long shower, she would head out for a walk, come back, cook and sleep on the couch. She never grew used to sleeping in her bedroom. She did this for 6 years until one morning, Lekha didn’t go swimming. She lay there on her couch, listening to the wind outside, her legs seeking her body’s warmth, curling up into a ball. She felt warm, she felt happy, she rubbed the palm of her hands on her thighs, her waist and her neck. For a minute, Lekha was almost scared to be able to feel so light suddenly. What was this lightness? Why was she happy? In 7 minutes Lekha would hit a sleep that she had learnt to forget in all this time. The skin around her lips curved into a tingle as she lay there, blissful. She felt cold and yet felt a warmth no man had ever been able to give her.