I don't wanna think about it.

I'm not talking about cancer.
I'm talking about rowing.
I started rowing on Thursday with the cancer rowers. The boat, as noted previously, is very skinny. Very very skinny, even narrower than the escalator at the North and Clybourn L stop. I got in the four-person scull, after being warned that if I put my foot on the floor of the boat, it would break through.
So I sat in position 3. I was terrified. Not that I would drown, because even if I caused the boat to flip, I wouldn't be in much danger. We were close to the dock, I can swim, the river ain't that big, and Coach J was nearby in her motor boat with a supply of orange life jackets. And it's summer. No need to fear hypothermia. I wasn't afraid of the river, which I should have been, because it is opaque and nasty and filled with debris. It was terror at being in this small boat and seeing the water just out there. Like right out there. Like an inch away, nothing but the walls of the boat separating water and Cancer Bitch. The uncanny, I've read, can be defined as a thing that should be inside being outside. I guess the river is far away all the time and now it was right there, all around me. How did early peoples invent boats, anyway? How odd odd odd it is that a boat can float. And that we can sit in a boat and it'll still float.


[ROW photo]


So I rowed and the coxswain yelled at me and I got confused. Watch S, in front of you, J said, do what she does. But I couldn't see what she was doing. Just her back. And her oar is on the port side and mine's on the starboard so I couldn't do exactly what she was doing. I would get into the rhythm (thinking about 1-2-3-4, pull, lean back, lean forward, bend knees, move the oar perpendicularly through the water, and then bring it back forward. I would time-out every so often, getting everything backwards and then I'd let the oar lay flat on the water, a neutral position, not hurting anything. Not helping, either. I was thinking about multiple intelligences and how I've always known that I don't have the athletic/coordinated intelligence. I was thinking about how A and I took ballet when we were in junior high--we were the big girls in a class of little kids--and how I could never memorize the sequences. I never remember what to do in step classes. Downtown Bobby Brown. Cha cha cha. I can do the grapevine with my feet when I'm part of a circle, and I remember step-shuf-fle-ball-change from gym class and the pronged taps we pushed into our tennis shoes. I kept getting out of sequence with my oar. The coxswain kept yelling that I needed to push the oar all the way out on the water, against the oar lock, not draw it back in. She kept saying Amy do this and Amy do that I thought that she thought my name was Amy and that I was supposed to do what she was telling Amy to do. And I probably even started thinking that my name was Amy, but Amy was a person behind me, toward the bow (back).
In my youth it took me so long to learn how to run into the jump rope when it was going going, slapping against the sidewalk. It was terrifying. You have to time it right. It seems like a door that opened just for a second.

There was a name for that running-into-the-rope-in-between-the-scoops-of-it but I don't remember what it was. And before I was able to do run into the jump rope and start jumping, it seemed impossible, and that's how it felt when I was sitting on the boat and trying to keep up. It seems impossible but everyone else is managing to do it.

And then Coach J said, Why don't you get out and let S take your place and I felt like I had failed. Someone else had to take my place. Besides yelling what I should be doing, Coach J had been yelling encouragement but then I heard her say to C, the high school rower in the boat with her, that you have to find something good that someone is doing, even if they're not doing it, and when I brought it up, she said, No, but you were good.
But back to the not wanting to think about it. I felt drawn, drawn to rowing and so I met up with S, who is Coach J's friend and maybe a coach, too, at the Lincoln Park Boat Club, which is hidden away between the zoo parking lot and the lagoon. We went into a workout room and did the ergs. That was Friday. And then I emailed S about meeting up today and she said, come around 7, and today I kept thinking, I'm going to go back there, and I felt drawn to the erg, and thought of the high school film we saw with Lorne Greene (born Lyon Himan "Chaim" Green) intoning, I must go down to the sea again and I was feeling that way about the erg. And I didn't want to think about it, analyze it because then I was afraid that I wouldn't feel drawn to it any more.
I did go there tonight and S gave me a workout (one minute of this, one of this, etc.) and I was less deliberate with my motions, not tracking 1-2-3-4, but going forward, bent knees, pull, lean back, recover. I'm getting the hang of rowing on the erg, and tomorrow, Monday, I will be back on the dirty water in the very skinny boat. And maybe I will see a Great Blue Heron again, which flew over the edge of the river last week, and we took it as a sign that the river still has life in it.

12 comments:

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Sam said...

Funny (or not), but your story reminds me of my writing - which may not be a good thing if I'm ever going ot get this thesis done - which has to get done if I'm ever going to graduate - and I've already sent in my graduation application for this fall so I'd better.

Now if I could just somehow get these characters to act right - get their oars in the water together - and try to make it to the end of the book without upsetting everything again.

I keep hoping.

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Lauren said...

I love your blog! I found you on blogged - I've been blogging since I was diagnosed with Hodgkin's in May. I love that you have pictures of your haircut - my friends could believe that I buzzed mine off and THEN posted pictures online! I also really like the henna... I'm thinking about trying that out.

great writing & a wonderful inspiration!

~Lauren

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Cancer Bitch said...

Thanks, Lauren, and good luck to you. I think you look good bald. I recommend jagua over henna, because it's black and thus darker. I ordered it online from England. As for you, Drugpain, I totally agree: I hate those ailments "that we pruned to suffer!"

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