Diving Sticks and Other Recollections of Public Pools

I once cracked open a diving stick and emptied the sand from it for no good reason.

I walk past the fence of the public pool and am hit with a burning sensation within the caverns of my nostrils from the day I first jumped into deep water without holding my nose. Instinct exhales the CO2 from my nose, expelling the phantom sting of a bygone chlorination invasion. 

Anger and joy are indistinguishable in the misty cloud of shrieks from children. They trot around the wet concrete at the quickest velocity that won’t get them the whistle. Here are temporary friends and eternal enemies; you never forget that one asshole from the pool, but time covers all traces of ever being able to look them up, no matter the caliber of your social media sleuthing skills.     

An old lady walks here from her one-bedroom three afternoons a week. Senility makes her indifferent or brave or carefree enough to wear a two-piece. She sits on a towel on a chaise, ever in direct sunlight. She’s a Mayan sun worshipper. She wades into the shallow end once a day, just before leaving, and the kids signal each other to goggle up, submerge, and gander at her wrinkled skin’s weightlessness. Underwater, the whiteness of her underexposed skin reveals her moniker. She’s the zebra lady. 

At my own childhood pool, there was a blind woman who I was afraid of because she sat on a patch of grass in her bathing suit and rocked back in forth, smiling and saying hello whenever I passed by. Rocking back and forth is common among the visually impaired because, being limited to more advanced bodily movement at as they get older, they seldom outgrow the soothing movement from infancy. Parents and teachers of the blind go to lengths to reduce the movement because it makes for uncomfortable social situations for the optical majority. I couldn’t see this as a child.

When I was older, I dove straight down from a diving board and jammed every finger I have on the bottom of the pool. I didn’t know that was possible. Didn’t know what was possible? Hitting the bottom of the pool or jamming all your fingers? Both, in case you were wondering.  

On the nightly news there was a piece about this girl who got her hair stuck on a drain on the bottom of the pool and it turned her parents into the opposite of orphans. She was an only child and had for years begged her parents to get a pool. Don’t all kids beg their parents for a pool? I begged my parents for a pool and was told I would get a pool spelled backwards. I was too young to spell, so their response really threw me.


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