Dipping, the Skinny Kind

Wednesday night at Carnegie Hall was a tribute to R.E.M., where various artists sang their favorite R.E.M. songs. Ingrid Michaelson was one of these artists.

I went to her concert last night at the City Winery. She described her part in the R.E.M. tribute, and when she mentioned the song she sang, my heart leapt:

“Nightswimming”

Nightswimming deserves a quiet night.
The photograph on the dashboard, taken years ago,
Turned around backwards so the windshield shows.
Every streetlight reveals the picture in reverse.
Still, it’s so much clearer.
I forgot my shirt at the water’s edge.
The moon is low tonight.

Nightswimming deserves a quiet night.
I’m not sure all these people understand.
It’s not like years ago,
The fear of getting caught,
Of recklessness and water.
They cannot see me naked.
These things, they go away,
Replaced by everyday.

Nightswimming, remembering that night.
September’s coming soon.
I’m pining for the moon.
And what if there were two
Side by side in orbit
Around the fairest sun?
That bright, tight forever drum
Could not describe nightswimming.

You, I thought I knew you.
You I cannot judge.
You, I thought you knew me,
this one laughing quietly underneath my breath.
Nightswimming.

The photograph reflects,
Every streetlight a reminder.
Nightswimming deserves a quiet night, deserves a quiet night.

I have never been skinny dipping. I’ve always wanted to. I hear other people’s experiences, and it sounds wonderful. Seeming vulnerable and nervous, yet empowered. This song is the way I imagine my experience when it finally happens, in setting and thoughts and  feelings. I’m glad Ingrid got to sing this song for Michael Stipe and friends. She sang it for us, and she did a bangup job. It was her and her voice and a looping pedal at the microphone and an upright bass. I loved it.

This song was part of a mix tape my friend, Sarah, gave me before I left for college, some 15 years ago, almost. It always stirs nostalgia. Its images haunt my mind. Its power draws me to the water’s edge, toes squishing in the sand, the water’s chilling air gently bristling my legs as I slowly step deeper. No one’s around, just me and the moon and a certain unexplained yet understood freedom, sprawled out, reaching out to each other just because we can. Splashing, gliding, floating. Goosebumps, then temperance, then utter and incomprehensible joy.

It’s one of the things I have to do before I die. It’s one of the things I’m definitely going to shave my legs for.

A little discussion.

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