When I left you last, it was Wednesday, and I was being arrogant in the tourist resort of Playa Blanca. On Wednesday, I did something I never do. I went sunbathing. I rented a three-euro lounge chair and stripped to my togs. I don’t think I’ve been seen in public topless since 1998. It was liberating and sunbathing was much more relaxing than I ever thought. I am a serial sun-avoider but having the warm sun caress your hairy, stretch-marked belly, while a gentle sea breeze whispers across your man-boobs is very, very relaxing. When I left Ireland, I was very stressed. I was convinced that I was never going to get any practical work done on my PhD, that I was going to become desperately poor (again), and that Project Connor as a whole was a ginormous failure. I am still, after all, the penniless, morbidly obese, chain-smoker I was in April. Yet, when I thought about these things while lying on that beach, I didn’t tense up. The holiday worked! I feel relaxed and everything seems doable.
When I was a child, I went for swimming lessons with my school. As a five-year-old, I clung onto the side of the pool and kicked, just like I was supposed to. As a six-year-old, when most of my classmates had let go of the side of the pool, I was still glued to it. I returned year after year, and by the time I was nine, I still hadn’t let go. It was decided that there was no need for me to go to swimming lessons the next year, and I stayed in school alone while the rest of the pupils went swimming.
For this reason, I have been in neither the sea nor a pool since the summer of 1998. How did I last that long? As I ambled into the Atlantic Ocean, I felt really calm. Splashing about in the waves, ducking and diving in the 100% transparent water, it came to me that I liked this Connor. I preferred this Connor to the Connor who lies on the sofa, quenching a cigarette in the little pot of garlic mayonnaise that came with the greasy pizza delivered hours earlier while he watched three mirthless episodes of Two and a Half Men in a row. So, as well as the billion resolutions I have already made, I have a new one for the list. I’m going to learn how to swim.
I’ll finish a marathon first. Hopefully in Cork in June. And then I’m going to learn how to swim. One thing at a time.
My skin is naturally a porcine pink, and I can burn on a rainy day in April in North Kerry, so the 25 degree sun here is a danger. I lathered myself in Factor 50 sunscreen three times while at the beach. It was very effective.
However, I applied the sunscreen while sitting up. Unfortunately, Connor’s lying-down body is a completely different shape from Connor’s sitting-up body. I neglected to put cream on the underside of the shelf where my tummy becomes my thighs. It can’t be seen while I sit. But when I lay down this thick stripe of skin was on display and the sun jumped at the chance. It burnt a strip of flesh that hadn’t seen daylight in 12 years and it burnt it red raw.
I’ve been smearing myself with after-sun ever since, and it’s very difficult to do this in public. When you’re applying cream to your lower abdomen, it looks for all the world as if you’re diddling yourself. But needs must.
That was the day at the beach. Part 3 coming tonight.