Katherine Shabat, nee Rubin, was born and raised in London, where she studied languages and literature. She came to Israel as a volunteer after the Six-Day War and met and married a member of a kibbutz. She and her husband now live in a suburb of Tel Aviv, and have two grown children. She has had stories published in the Jerusalem Post, ESRA Magazine, Ang-Lit. Press (Israel) and The Awakenings Review (Chicago.) Many of her poems have appeared in anthologies in Israel and abroad and in 2008, she published her first book of poetry, ‘Back from Beyond’ under the Pen Press imprint. At present, she is working on a novel.
The following work is copyright © 2010. All rights reserved. No distribution or reprinting in any form whatsoever without written permission from the author.
Lost and Found
When Sylvia’s doctor recommended a daily swim to alleviate her aches and pains, she was willing to try anything, although a wet bathing suit on an ageing, overweight body and wet mussed-up hair did not appeal to her. Sylvia remembered that somewhere in her cupboard was a brand new bathing suit. After an hour of rummaging she found it in its original bag. It had been there for over six years, since Nat’s tragic accident on the eve of their silver wedding anniversary trip to Juan le Pins. She sat on the bed, fondling the royal blue material, memories overwhelming her.
Sylvia had been packing her suitcase and daydreaming about the second honeymoon she and Nat were planning. She placed the new blue swimsuit with its harlequin pattern in her suitcase and visualised herself lying, with Nat by her side, on a yellow and white striped mattress, under a matching parasol in the elegant resort on the Cote d’Azur. She felt like a bride, full of anticipation.
Then the phone had rung and her life, as she knew it, was over. A nurse in the emergency room of the local hospital advised her that Nat had been brought in, in a critical condition, after a road accident. By the time Sylvia arrived at the hospital, he was dead. She still yearned for him painfully. He had been not only her husband, but also her best friend.
Sylvia tried on the swimsuit. It was a bit small and the décolleté not suitable for a woman of her age. She would have to keep yanking at it so as not to reveal too much and it probably wouldn’t be comfortable for exercising. She should really buy another one, but she had paid a small fortune for the pool subscription when she wasn’t even sure how long she would keep up the swimming. .
On the morning of her first swim Sylvia left the house before dawn. She limped painfully along in the light of orange street lamps, imagining parents and children, behind the dark windows, turning over in their beds for another hour’s sleep before the start of a new day. She saw herself, set apart, alone, walking towards her mission – some gentle exercise in the local swimming pool!
There was a free lane in the pool and Sylvia slipped into the tepid water. She started to swim breaststroke but the pain in her hip was excruciating. She stopped immediately and splashed around in the shallow end. In the soothing water, she felt brief relief from her aches. Gently moving her limbs, she watched the sun rise, casting its rays through the glass panels of the pool and reflecting on the goggles of the early morning swimmers.
After a few minutes she had had enough and made her way to the locker room. Women in all stages of undress were milling around the showers and lockers. There was a heavy scent of deodorant and body lotion. Two women were holding a conversation seemingly indifferent to the fact that both were completely naked. Sylvia dried herself in the shower stall and dressed with complicated manoeuvres under her towel. .
Within a few weeks she was swimming twenty minutes of backstroke every day. She felt so much fitter. Then one morning she forgot her swimsuit in a plastic bag on the bench in the locker room. When she came to collect it the attendant at the door said that someone had claimed a lost swimsuit just before Sylvia arrived. He assured her that the woman would soon notice that it was not hers and return it.
The next day Sylvia went to the pool to look for her swimsuit. She spotted it immediately. The harlequin pattern in its varying blues was curled around the peg designated for the lost and found items. She undressed in haste, forgetful of her usual modesty and slipped into her swimsuit. She couldn’t wait to get into the pool again. Somehow the swimsuit felt different, more roomy, comfortable. When she got out of the water, she didn’t have to tug it in every direction.
She entered the locker room and caught sight of herself in the mirror. Her swimsuit was altered. Instead of the décolleté, there was a chaste round neckline, but with the same blue harlequin pattern. It was a miracle. Her swimsuit had undergone a metamorphosis. It was now ideal for her age and her proportions.
She had always been prone to varying degrees of mystic thoughts, but of course there must be some logical explanation. Then again she had bought the swimsuit six years ago. What was the likelihood of two swimsuits of that vintage floating around, and being lost on the same day? Was somebody wearing her anniversary swimsuit? Had they made the exchange? It was an enigma. Then there was a moral dilemma. Should she initiate a search for a possible owner of this more mature design. Finally, Sylvia decided ‘it was meant to be,’ something she told herself when pleasant things happened to her, and she accepted the swimsuit as her own.
As the days passed she began to feel uneasy when going to the pool. What if she ran into the original owner of the swimsuit? How embarrassing! How would she explain it? One morning she determined that this would be the last time she would wear the suit and planned to buy a new one that afternoon.
Sylvia swam for a full half-hour, alternate lengths of breaststroke and backstroke, revelling in her progress. She made her way to the steps at the shallow end, taking off her goggles as she went. At the top of the steps, a shapely brunette of about thirty was adjusting her goggles before entering the pool. She looked lovely in Sylvia’s anniversary swimsuit.
The two women froze each with one foot in the water and one foot out. Then they passed each other without exchanging a word.