I notice him as I finish my laps and head over to the smaller, warmer pool to swim with the girls. He’s climbing up the ladder at the deep end of the big pool. He’s a mountain of a man, bald, wearing a thick gold chain and lots of tattoos, including a large spider on his back.

He seems an odd character to be hanging out at the local YMCA. I assume he must have a kid in swim class, but he doesn’t seem to be watching anyone. No kids wave at him.

The little pool is blessedly warmer than the large pool, but after while even 92 degrees feels chilly.

“I’m going to the whirlpool,” I tell the girls. “Wave at me when you get out. Not too much longer, OK? We gotta get going.”

There’s only one older guy in the whirlpool and he leaves shortly after I sit down. Not long after “spider man” walks in.

He sits on my side, a few feet from me. I glance his way and offer a small smile. Hot tub etiquette — acknowledge, but don’t engage. It’s hard to talk in the whirlpool room because it’s so loud.

The lousy acoustics don’t deter Spider Man who insists on striking up a conversation with me.

Shit. A talker. Dammit. The girls better hurry up. How long do I have to sit here before it doesn’t look rude if I leave?

But I go with the flow (pun intended) because I’m a woman and I’m polite to a fault. We yell back and forth to each other for awhile. Eventually, we introduce ourselves and shake hands.

He’s a nice guy. And interesting guy. A jovial, charismatic guy.

He tells me that he loves the Aqua Boot Camp class.

“A lot of people are scared off by the ‘boot camp’ part,” he says, “but it’s not that bad. I was going to go tonight, but I tweaked my knee in Zumba class.”

I’m enjoying the visual of this gigantic gangster-looking guy doing jumping jacks in the water with all the water aerobics ladies and shaking his rump in Zumba.  Spider man getting his sweat on.

We talk (shout, really) until I can’t take the heat of the whirlpool anymore and have to get out. I tell him it was nice to meet him. Because it was.

I like people who aren’t what they seem to be. I like contradictions. I like opening my mind to new ideas and new people. I don’t necessarily like doing it half naked in a hot tub, but…

I left the Y that night grateful for Spider Man and the reminder that sometimes I need to let my guard down a bit, rethink stereotypes, and just connect with other human beings.

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About Just Write “What ends up revealing itself when free writing is that everything has meaning. That is a magnificent gift of writing. If we write from a free heart-gut place, our souls start speaking.”