You will not sleep with me the night before a meet; smiling, you say I sap your strength, and wink. We celebrate instead by standing in my drafty bathtub, taping you down for tomorrow's races. This is both compromise and ritual between us. You hate the stink of Nair, strong and dense, and I will not let you shave; the body stubble burns my skin. Your hair hasn't recovered fully from the last time. Only now it begins to curl across your wrists and the curves of your knees, coming in blond, barely visible, but unexpectedly thick. I sit on the tub's edge, stripping tape from your ankle. We both are silent, counting the sticky discards, each second you'll save. I can see you already, arms stroking rhythmically through the water, hips moving purposefully and with promise, smooth as a dolphin returning home, swimming back to me.
Back to the study...: