On Wednesday and Friday mornings the pool opens shortly after five and swim practice starts at six. Normally there are four or five of us and we take two lanes, swimming counterclockwise as we complete a workout printed in black marker on a white board.
During a typical workout I will approach the walls at the ends of the pool one hundred and sixty times, check my position with respect to the cross on the wall and the “T” on the pool bottom, flip and start back the other way. During each lap I watch the other swimmers in our group, trying to keep close to the person in front of me and far enough ahead of the one behind me. I’m constantly watching where I am and where I’m going.
On some mornings, if I get to practice early, I watch Brad Snyder finish his workout in the lane that I will use starting at six. Brad swims with sleeves on his arms that protect him when he rubs up against the lane lines. His strokes are perfect and well-measured. I watch and count. He takes seventeen strokes each length, then extends his right hand tentatively until it touches the wall. He glides and bends his arm until his forearm comes into full contact, then turns and starts back the other way for another seventeen strokes. His brother Russell swims in the next lane and checks on Brad’s progress from time to time.
When they finish, Russell gets out first and stands over Brad’s lane. Brad uses two arms to press himself out of the lane and to the deck, then extends his right arm to where he knows Russell will be. Russell places the outstretched arm in the crook of his left arm and slowly guides his blind brother from the edge.
I sit quietly and never say a word as I watch, with both eyes open, Baltimore’s greatest swimmer head to the locker room arm in arm with his brother.