What We Found at the Bottom of the Pool

For some reason I keep thinking I’ll find you at the bottom of the pool, maybe down a sandal like I was that day, picking at the algae that the sun baked into the deep end, kicking over last season’s leaves so they can look new again.

It’s all the same, if you’re wondering. The snapped diving board still covers the drain, fiberglass forked at the split like a giant snake’s severed tongue set to blanch in the sunlight. The ladder’s still busted, bolts jutting out like chipped teeth, and I can climb out now without his boots on my fingers, liberating nails from skin.

I can see his approach again, when our legs dangled perilously over the edge and he came over and smiled that smile of his, the one that could win scholarships. I don’t remember what he said, but we laughed cause he laughed and it had that way of worming into you and bringing it out against your will.

So we laughed.

He asked us why we were wearing our swimsuits when there was nothing to swim in. I remember that. And the baggy white tee you wore in place of a bikini top, the one that gave away areola contours. And the way he looked and smiled and passed off peeking down your shirt as gauging pool depth. And how he asked for a hug, where were our manners?

And we could hug each other too.

And we should hug each other too.

Now. Good.

Your heart in my chest was a watch’s spring wound too tight. An old model; obsolete; ticking the way it wanted to but not the way it should. He said he wanted to greet us like they do in Europe, and he kissed both cheeks. We were to do this too. I’m sure you remember.

His finger could be a magic finger. Wherever he pointed got a kiss.

My lips on your cheek. Ta-da. Yours on my neck. Presto. Mine on the corner where yours met. Voila. Your eyes were the clouds shifting past pepto pink sky and I asked the clouds if this was for him or for me. I didn’t say it. I didn’t have to. Our touch was a haze he spooned around and around till he wasn’t present for what we were doing. He was there, but he wasn’t present. You know what I mean.

The sandal slipped my toes and tumbled in like those cars you’ll see in B action movies, end over end. I almost expected it to explode at the bottom. I don’t know if you kicked it. I don’t know if he kicked it. I know I dangled, weightless, from his hand, to extricate sandal by toe, wiggling piggies he called it, and I was so close when I fell in. When he dropped me in. I saw the clouds swimming in your eyes, your shirt pricked by vertices just out of sight and your hands too. You didn’t know what to do with your hands. My foot got cut on the glass of a busted Heineken; red mingled with green. Your voice asked if I was okay. Your voice came from the bottom of a well dug past bedrock, and the vertices fell, and you were somewhere far away, right in front of me. There was dirt in his nails and he got it in your hair when he grabbed you.

You were to take him in and I was to watch.

He was to hurt me if you didn’t do it.

And I went to climb and he liberated the nails from my skin and the world had no sound in it. No sound, only heat and light, and you did that thing to save me. That’s what you said when he left, when you pulled me from this pool, this hole, the one I’m in right now, and you said it with your eyes that were the clouds and not with the mouth I kissed.

It’s still there, again, now, as you come over to pull me out. Like no time has passed at all. So I dangle, from your hand, weightless, and I wonder if I’ll ever go in again.

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