On a hot afternoon after college, with another hour before I had to pick up the kids, I drove directly to the beach from Wellington, and slipped on my swimsuit in the parked car. I walked barefoot along the hot sand path through reeds and grasses down to the shore, dropped my towel as I went.
I waded in, sucked my breath as the cold hit my tummy, then dove under the surface. When I surfaced, I lay on my back, floating in the waves.
There were only a couple of others swimming further along the shoreline, and two or three people throwing sticks for their dogs on the beach. Two Maori guys were digging around in the wet sand for something or other. Large white gulls floated nearby.
I focused on the sea, and how it cooled and soothed after sitting in heavy traffic – how the waves lapped against my skin, the salt water in my ears and nose, and the refreshing cold wet of my tangled hair. There was a moment when I realised that I was making weird noises as I swam, sighs and groans. I was much relieved that there was no one in hearing distance, and did it louder.