I am naked except for a bikini bottom. In a central London bath house. More naked than the girls and that is not fair. My package bulges rather obtrusively. Scaring the kiddies and making the old ladies smile. The bulge is how I got my first real girlfriend, or so I am told. I used to be the captain of the swim team. Probably because of my big dick in the Speedo. It presses out against the nylon like it wants to escape and I am not even hard. Thank goodness I am not easily aroused like some of the gay boys in the shower.

 The changing room is freezing cold. It is not heated and a section of the wall is made of opaque glass looking up at the gray December English sky. On my stroll through the locker room and out to the massive swimming pool I am forced to walk past the toilets. The stench of human feces smothers the senses. No matter what time I choose to swim; that smell is always there. What do these English people eat? Oh yeah. I forgot.

 I skirt around the side edge of the pool, shaking like a cold little boy. These people are used to the weather, and I suppose I shouldn't let it bother me. But it does bother me. My ethnic background is Italian and Greek. My people like warm climates. I look at the pale limeys around me, oblivious. I am a few shades darker than alabaster. People always ignore me, but I am still self-conscious of my hairy chest and my little love handles. Almost everyone in here is smooth-chested and thin enough to show his intestines.

 But I am exaggerating like I always do when I am nervous. And I am nervous a lot. I drink too much coffee and too much alcohol and smoke too much pot. I used to snort coke every day and pop ecstasy pills and valiums like gum drops. I probably did other drugs too but I can't remember the specifics. It all came out in therapy and flew out of my brain forever. Every once in a while a relative will remind me of something stupid I did as a kid or a teenager. And that makes me glad I live in Europe and not America. I never want to go back home. I would honestly rather die. I thank God every day I am relatively clean and a college student again. This time it is graduate school. I am studying to be a music journalist so I can get invited to parties and do more drugs with party girls. The proper name of the program is Periodical Journalism at City University in Islington. City is the best university for journalism in the world. All my colleagues did their undergraduate at St John's, Oxford, or Cambridge. I am one of the only Americans.

 At 31 I feel 18 again. I found out in therapy that the root of my neuroses started at puberty when candy and toys no longer seemed to be the answer to all the world's problems. I spent my 20s doing drugs to escape the fear of death and the pain of leading a worthless existence in a sea of anonymity. The psychologist noted that I was a vegetarian and suggested that I start eating meat and exercising daily. He was right. Whenever I stop exercising and eating meat is when I most want to die. To live in this world it is necessary to kill and fight inertia.

 Swimming is not a cure for my desire to die but it is a treatment. Swimming gets my heart pumping without snorting any powders. The high is quite intense and lingers for hours. My muscles release their tense grip to my bones and allow my brain to relax. The huge meals I eat and bottles of wine I drink afterwards help as well. They all combine to make me the man I am today.

 I scan the pool area for hairy fat people like me. I see a plethora of ugly pallid people. Also people much fatter than me, and people much hairier than me. England is getting to be like America. Some men have hair all over their backs like apes. I wouldn't leave the house if I looked like that. And the stomachs on some of these people. They are trying to be honorary Americans. I feel I should tell them to lose some weight before they go bathing in public, but I suspect that's why they are here.

 I glance behind me and some cows in the baby pool are doing aquatic calisthenics. Aquacizing, I believe it's called in the USA. A normal sized semi-attractive woman is leading the bovines from the pool deck waving her hands in the air like a ninny and trying to be reassuring and motivating. When I make brief eye contact with the leader of the herd she acknowledges me and looks ashamed. You can see it written on her visage that leading women too fat to exercise on dry land is not how she wanted to spend her life. My ego rises from negative 100 to negative 40. Now I feel like a regular person. I start to breathe normally and to relax as I approach the pool deck, put down my towel, and adjust my goggles.

 I jump into the water and it is not as cold as I had suspected. The smell of chlorine makes me feel happy. Thank god for chemicals. I never shower after swimming like most people. Why? The chemicals dry out my oily skin and make my hair look clean and cool without the hassle of shampoo and gel. I push off the wall and stretch and pull and glide and stretch and pull and glide- the art of swimming.

 * flip *

 I never fancied myself living in England until the past summer when my German girlfriend suggested I go back to school so we could be closer. I was living in Seattle and she was living in London, which was making sex difficult for her. It wasn't too difficult for me because I was seeing other girls. But I did love her and I decided it was for the best. But when I moved to England and confessed my infidelity in a moment of weakness she broke up with me. Now I spend my nights drinking bottles of red wine alone. Before retiring to bed I will normally put on my Walkman and go on long walks around Soho to think about what went wrong.

 * flip *

 Geography, geography, geography...

 * flip *

 The English consider England to be the most important landmass in the world, which makes them typical. Every country considers itself to be the most important. And they are all wrong except maybe the French. But simultaneously, the English have a hard time visualizing the size of the island that they occupy. I think it is what made them so imperialistic. Never has such a tiny country taken over so much of the world. It is the subtlety of the Brits that make them so dangerous. They make friends with everyone. They are the most pleasant people in the world. Almost perfect. This dichotomy brings up funny emotions as their empire has shrunken into 
nothing and their country starts to resemble an American tourist theme park. 

 In December the sun never shines on the British Empire.

 * flip *

 So I am a journalism student - again. I am trying to make my move to Europe permanent. It is a desperate attempt to find meaning in my reality. My first choice is to work for New Musical Express. If that fails I want to be an American correspondent for an English or French newspaper. Some job where I can travel a lot, drink a lot, and still be paid. A competent journalist with proper training can crank out a news article in any state of mind at any time of day in a moment's notice. Good journalism is a defense mechanism against higher realms of thought. It is the lowest echelon of writing. It cannot falter to render reality meaningless. It is a perfect job for the literate and despondent alcoholic.

 * flip *

 My classes are kind of boring but informative. The lectures on morality and ethics are the most unbearable. I have this stodgy English journalism professor who in front of the whole class makes fun of Norway for priding themselves on having the world's freest press. We even have Norwegian students in the fucking class. Insensitive misguided prick. Yes Norway has a free press, so what's the joke? The professor insinuated that it was ludicrous for "such a tiny country" to have serious journalistic ambitions.

 He said that Norway is so small that everybody knows each other and there is no need for a press at all. They can all just kind of discuss things together at lunch. I didn't have the heart to raise my hand and tell him I felt the same way about England when I found out they have like eight major daily newspapers.

 * flip *

 The differences between people in big countries like the United States and China, for instance, and people in small countries like England and Norway, are manifold.

 The Norwegians in my class tell me the TV in Norway is completely blank until about 6 p.m. when the shows run until midnight and then shut off. And there are only three channels. And no commercials. Norwegians obviously have superior minds. They deserve the world's freest press.

 I imagine that each and every one of the four million possible Norwegians you might happen to meet is amazing in some particular way. They are all experts at something with an amazing education and grasp of humanity and world culture. They actually consider themselves special and unique and they treat each other the same way. Perhaps they do not however reserve this point of view for other non-Scandinavians; whom they consider barbarians.

 * flip *

 Conversely, you can walk around a whole day in America without running into anyone particularly well-rounded nor educated. The average American watches television for seven hours per day. There are hundreds of channels, most with 15 minutes of commercials per hour. Any amount of television over two hours per day I put on par with heroin and suicide.

 Don't fucking kid yourself. TV is heroin and suicide with commercials.

 * flip *

 Now for some more comparisons between America and China.

 In China, freedom is nothing but a cruel joke. The vote is meaningless, you can't protest against anything meaningful without getting gassed and beaten by the police, and the easily accessible jobs all pay six dollars per hour.

 Ditto America.

 * flip *

 My mind wanders from big countries to big pricks. Frat boys and their ilk will often say that size matters. I have never heard a girl say that without being prompted by a guy. Then they admit that a big penis feels nicer inside. But none of them say a small penis doesn't feel nice as well. But still we hear that size matters.

 Does size matter?

 Yeah. And somehow, subconsciously I guess, my ethics of journalism professor doesn't know that the British Isles are comparatively speaking as small as a ten-year-old prick. I did not feel the urge to raise my voice in class, but I happen to be a geography buff and know that Great Britain (including England, Northern Ireland, Wales, and Scotland) is 94,000 square miles.

 Norway is 125,181 square miles. Sorry Professor, but Norway is actually 30% bigger than Great Britain even including the other parts nearby that you stole from the micks, the sheep shaggers, and the highlanders. Norway is bigger and they didn't even have to steal a single herring from anyone to make it so.

 * flip *

 Now on to the bigger countries. The population of China is over five times the population of the U.S. at 1.4 billion people. The landmass of everything Sino, in case you are interested, is 3.7 million square miles. Everyone talks about how big China is, but America is actually three Great Britains larger than China.

 Useless things to occupy a brain but enough to make a few points.

 * flip *

 All the people in the fast lane are swimming too slowly for me. I constantly have to pass other people and this pisses me off. It is not my fault that they are slow, but still I am made to suffer. There is only one fast lane in this pool, and it is half the size of the two slower lanes. So it's up to them to sink or swim. I pass.

 * flip *

 Another thing that pisses me off is when the people in the fast lane stop and congregate at the wall when they are tired. I do not stop until I am finished with a set. And then I move out of the fast lane in consideration of the other swimmers. The wannabe swimmers stand around in front of the wall and make it difficult for me to do my flip turns. I hate the limey bastards for that single moment, standing there, bullshitting to each other like they are at a sherry party or something. Blocking my fucking wall. What about my flip turns you cockney rhyming cunts? Go fall down the apples and pears before I smash you in the Niagara Falls!

 * flip *

 Normally in spite of the sherry party, I do my flip turns anyway, aiming a little left or right of the testicles. The point is to scare them into  getting the fuck out of my way when I am swimming towards them the next  time. I am in sensory deprivation. I cannot hear. I cannot smell. Everything is warm and wet to the touch. I am in the womb. I am burning off what remains of my love handles so only the pure essence of my skinny lovable self remains. Do not fuck with me in this state.

 * flip *

 I am repairing my lungs, burnt black from smoking hash-laced tobacco cigarettes. 

 * flip *

When the oxygen depletion arises I go mental and everything that frustrates me in life comes out swirling like water down the drain. My negative emotions concentrate into a tiny ball that lies at the center of my reptile brain. The pain burns good and this pain is all- everything that matters to me. 

 * flip *

This self-torture turns the hate into love and frees me to think of sex. Eating pussy, licking breasts, and stroking plump buttocks and thighs. But female voluptuousness exists in no concrete form I imagine when I am insane. It is all ideas. Not real breasts, just the perfect form of breasts. Not real buttocks, but the ideal form of buttocks. Not real pussy, but the perfect eternal form of pussy. 

 * flip *

Yes. I am in Plato's Republic of Sex. I am alive and no woman could satisfy me like my own idealizing oxygen deprived brain. I am not quite there yet. Not quite over the edge into that realm. I bore towards the wall skipping breaths. I aim my size 12 feet at a random bowl of nuts at the the sherry party. I missed again. They always move.

 * flip *

Now I am on the final lap of my first set. I dig deep and skip more breaths. I must be trying to make my lungs explode. When the pain gets unbearable I think of the times I am high. When I get home from swimming, I crack open a Red Bull or a Dr. Pepper and I spark up a joint. What I live for is only the poisonous sugar and caffeine high mixed with the brain-melting THC. I turn my head to breathe and I blast a loud asthmatic snort that sounds like a yogi master pummeling an unsuspecting foe from a distance with a sonic burst of air. Snot flies out my nose into the next lane onto an old man swimming sidestroke.

 * flip *

 Final lap. I use all my strength to pull the water past me and I kick with all my might. The lactic acid in my oxygen-deprived muscles and aching lungs is making my blood boil. I would burn up if not for the heat dissipating action of the water. What once seemed cold now seems more like the Caribbean ocean in August.

* stop *

* breathe / gasp *

Fuck. First set over. First one's always the hardest. Just two more to go before  the breaststroke. Ah, breaststroke, my only reward besides health in all of this. 

 I crawl over to the slow lane to relax and to let the other real swimmers do their flipturns. I wonder if they appreciate it like I do. I wonder if they even notice. I bet they do. I am not a humanist. I do not think we all share the same hopes and aspirations. I do not believe "we are all the same underneath it all." I am not that dumb. However I believe that all real swimmers do flip turns.

 Two sets later I quit the fast lane and settle into the next slowest lane. I feel tired and powerful. My chest has expanded and my body has expanded and is engorged with oxygen-rich blood. The toxins are flushed from my fatty deposits and sweated out through my skin.

 The slow lane is twice as wide as the fast lane. It's normally the lane where all the hot girls are. London girls are on the whole pretty good- looking. Like Mary Poppins. Fresh and untouchable for fear of soiling them. I cannot speak for the rest of the girls in England, as I have no desire or money to leave London to explore. If I have to spend the hard earned money my parents send me every month then it's going to be for a trip to Paris or Amsterdam. The girls in London are fine. The faces are fresh. The skin is clear and shiny. The hair is light. The bodies are slender and the tits and asses are especially nice. The main reason I come to the pool is to keep fit but the girls are the best reason to relax and stay a little longer.

 In the slow lane I lose my aggressions and relax. The secret of pulling and gliding is the same in breaststroke but even more pronounced. Breaststroke is all gliding. The kick is difficult to do correctly and I do not have perfect form like my freestyle. However my form is better than most of the other people I am swimming with.

 It's funny the stroke is called breaststroke, and the interesting thing about it is not that you get to stroke girls breasts or even see them at all, but if you swim directly behind a girl swimming breaststroke you get the closest thing to a beaver shot that you are ever going to get without paying money. And these are real decent girls not the smutty drug addict whores who have to sell their pussies for money to eat.

 Girls, especially girls in England, tend to be wary of swimmingbeaverspotters. Therefore if you want to play spot the beaver and get a long lustful look at it stretched out underwater, then you better play your cards right. For instance, you can't just jump into the lane, wait for the hottest girl to swim by and then go after her. That is the mark of an amateur.

 The preferred method of swimmingbeaverspotting, as I like call it, is to make believe the beaver is not there at all- to lull it into a state of oblivious indifference. In fact, start out swimming in front of the beaver, so it can entertain the bizarre illusion that you are just some happily married bloke and not really swimmingbeaverspotting at all.

 The strangest thing about swimming beavers is that they almost always travel in pairs. The fit girls with the shapely asses and faces and beavers worth spotting are always traveling relatively quickly, about the same as my own breaststroke velocity. Since this is very often the case, it is necessary to stop at the opposite end of the pool and wait for the beaver to pass. The trick for me is to languish at the opposite end of the pool and of course not to make direct eye contact with the swimming beaver. I have to nonverbally communicate that breaststroke is just something I do to stretch out and recover from swimming freestyle (I say freestyle instead of "the crawl" because I hate the way "the crawl" sounds, like a venereal disease or something).

 Therefore slight of hand is the trick to swimmingbeaverspotting. Let the beaver pass you, and then follow closely behind. Then you can get a good lick (oops did I say lick? I meant look) at the swimming beaver in its natural environment. Suddenly the world is a great place to be and no amount of bullshit from an over-the-hill wanking English journalism professor can ruin that.

 But everything, even swimmingbeaverspotting gets boring to me after a short while. So after a set or two I normally return to the fast lane and do some more freestyle laps, keeping a good lookout for more swimming beavers worth spotting in case I should get tired again and need a break.

 I start my fifth set of ten laps and I am completely supple now and swimming quickly and easily. The lane has cleared and there are a couple fast swimmers like me in the lane. The sherry party is over. I get in a good rhythm and my sets blend together. Flip. Flip. Flip. Flip. Flip. Flip. I do not rest. I am in a trance. Nothing matters and no stimulus can enter my brain while the laps tick by every 30 seconds or so. Sensory deprivation and pulling and gliding. This is a feeling comparing favorably to rest. With eight of ten sets finished, I stop and relax. My skin is red and my forehead is burning. I take a glance around looking to spot a swimming beaver.

 I notice a girl in the slower lane. Kate Moss look-alike. There are a few in London. And I love them all intensely. She starts to breaststroke and I dip my head below the surface to catch a glimpse of her. Her swimsuit, white and not entirely opaque, allows one to see the entire bum as if naked. The beaver is exposed just seven feet ahead of me behind just one hundredth of an inch of wet nylon. I have enjoyed this view for over 25 years since I joined my first swim team at age six. I never, however, enjoyed it as much as now.

 I used to think as an ecstasy-clubbing raver in the early 1990s that the best time of our lives was the early twenties hanging out with good drugs and good friends. But that is not the case. One's appreciation of life grows with age. This is a fact not taught in high school. Why is this a secret? I think if anything it should be a comfort to those who are bombarded with messages telling us our youth is so precious and soon ending. Youth is mostly stressful for this reason. They tell us soon we will be adults with responsibilities and no time for fun. It doesn't have to be that way. That's why God gave us graduate school and birth control.

 The Kate Moss girl is swimming fast. She sets a nice pace and I find it difficult to follow. After swimmingbeaverspotting a few laps I decide to give it a rest and let her go. I follow on, concentrating on stretching my muscles to squeeze out the acid produced by the stress of life. My neck and lower back crackle and I experience a deep opium relaxation.

 I am not noticing anything as the bliss of the laps glides by peacefully. Sex is meaningless. Life is meaningless. Buddhism is paramount. Serenity. Trance. Serenity trance. Life is a dream of a dream. It's not really there at all. It's less real than the trees. We are the trees. We are the bees' knees.

 Suddenly, I regain consciousness and notice I am hard. It feels good, but I try to relax as I am getting tired and need to get out of the pool soon. The Kate Moss girl is swimming behind me. A little too closely. English people can be so perverted.