Be born a month early. You think you are ready to leave the warm amniotic suspension, but you are born an unhappy, colicky infant who maybe still breathes better in water than you ever did in air.
Come home to a loft along the East River, with the Brooklyn Bridge out your window that rises from out of the murky waters, steady. Love the days when the wind blows up from the southeast and the salt of the Atlantic hits your nose, just right.
Grow up in pools. Have a mother who drags you to the health club on weekends, who covers your head in a pink swim cap so she can keep an eye on you as she swims laps and you doggy paddle in the deep end, swimming tirelessly after your older sister who already has a strong flutter kick.
Spend summers at the beach. The Pacific is a shocking cold, even in July, and you get overheated so easily on the hot sand. You throw yourself into the surf, let it pummel you into the underbelly of the tide, and toss you out. You wash up on the slick shoreline exhausted and waterlogged. You blink salt out of your eyes into the steady Malibu sunlight.
Swim competitively. Spend ten years spitting into your goggles and diving off of blocks and obsessing over split times and milliseconds. You learn what it is to sweat underwater, to step out into a winter night and feel the soaking ends of your hair freeze against your collar. Squeeze yourself in and out of racing suits, let the cyclical flip turns imprint onto you until they become little more than muscle memory.
In college, have a boy tell you he tastes chlorine on your skin, even though you haven’t been in the pool for months. Remember the high of exhaustion, better than the high of sex. Feel the nostalgia burgeon, then quell.
Understand that there are two kinds of quiet. There is the quiet you could never stand, the kind of quiet you feel falling asleep at night in the empty countryside, the way the silence beats violently against your ears and all you wish for is grating city noise.
Then there is the quiet you relish. The pressure of water against your eardrums. Hushed submersion in chlorine or saline. Underwater, the silence feels truly quiet. Impenetrable.