Swimming Pool by Chris Duncan
published in Volume 9, Issue 4 on September 16th, 2002I slit little narrow-hipped Hope's abdomen wide open. Though thirty, she has the figure of a twelve-year-old boy. I tell her months ago to prepare for a c-section. I want to delivery it naturally, she whines, her bottom lip quivering. I tell her, Honey, I say, naturally is a relative term. She cries. I shrug and smile at the husband, lumberjack type, furry and thick, friendly like a Golden Retriever. We share smiles that say, Pregnant women, so emotional, what can you do? Randy, I say to the husband, you need to take care of this one. I pat Hope's leg compassionately. Smiles all around. Dr. Edwina "Weenie" Monroe is a doctor with a great bedside manner. Patients love me.
Now I dip my hands through muscle and human muck and pull out a fat little boy, blessed with such a clear complexion and a mellow disposition. I'm always pleased that c-sectioned babies are so like an afternoon nap on a rainy day; they're spared the red-faced, cone-headed war of a vaginal delivery. I fancy myself akin to the stoic firemen who rescue unfortunate little boys and girls from abandoned water wells. I shoot entropy the bird. In short, with my miniature sword, I make it easier for this plump little boy, bewildered yet unperturbed, sticky and malleable, to enter from a world of creation to a world of erosion. Hope stutters groggily, D-Does he have all his fingers and toes. He's perfect, I answer. The sweetest music for parents is he's perfect or she's perfect, for a compliment of the child is a compliment for the parents, saying loudly and clearly: You, with all your flaws, are good enough to produce a pretty baby. Their egos want he's perfect or she's perfect, so I give it to them…when I can, when it's possible.
Hope tearfully says, Thanks, Weenie. I tell all my patients to call me Weenie. They love my name. I'm so memorable. I'm so personable. Why, you're welcome, I say, my tone light yet responsible. I glance at a crying Randy, his scraggly beard sticking out from behind his surgical mask, a big lug dressed in surgical room garb. Oh, Weenie, he says, his voice cracking, the proud papa. You're welcome too, I say, giving him a wink. I'm sewing Hope up, whiting out the red spill, working on her numb, gaped open tummy with monotony, with expertise, and with a ho-hum nonchalance that puts the patients at ease. I'm in control and immersed in the Tao of my job; I'm this woman's gut, the sutures, the scalpel, the baby's umbilical cord. I'm so Now. Briefly, I allow myself to remember my first vivid experience with what I thought had to be the divine, with the experiencing of growing from the inside, with the ecstasy of life overcoming death, if only for a few seconds.
I walk timidly, lightly, my high arched feet making sucking sounds on the wet, smooth concrete floor of the Boy's Shower Room at the public pool. I'm between fifteen and sixteen years old and am here to wait for Preston and for myself; for, it seems, I am not complete until he is by my side. My overwhelming desire for my life has caused me, momentarily to forget about the death I've occasioned. When I close my eyes, there she is, packed tightly inside my skull, a sort of little girl hermit crab, creeping out of her compressed home at inopportune moments: Susan White-cute, second grader, Aryan in looks, constant lisp (she says Pepthe when meaning Pepsi)-drowns in the pool today. I am her baby-sitter. She's my responsibility, my neighbor, and my fault. Susan drowns surrounded by stalactites of preadolescent and teenaged legs, girls and boys, hundreds of busy toes scraping the rough concrete floor, crazily going nowhere, hairless butts, nubbin tits and incubating vulvas, pasty pale penises with robin eggs for balls, all hanging on pelvises pivoting gracefully and gracelessly to catch flung Frisbees and tossed tennis balls. These girls and boys surreptitiously excrete without care zigzagging jets of warm piss, trailing each of them like a car's frenzied dust disturbed by a joyride on a gravelly road. Kids. Doritos. Snickers. M&M's wrappers. Baby Oil. Susan White's dead. Cindy Lauper's "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" blares while Preston and I kill her; we stand on her back and legs, absently lost in each other, while her little lungs fill with pool water.
Where is Preston? He said we'd meet after Saturday Night Live. I feel like crying: a little girl's response. Where is he? This room echoes my heavy breathing and my gurgling stomach, upset and empty. I haven't eaten a thing since we killed her, no supper, nothing, except for a wintergreen Lifesaver, that's all. My mother shakes her head. She's worried about me. That poor little girl. What in the hell were the lifeguards doing? I don't know, I say. I don't know. My mouth and nose are filled with the smell of chlorine, dampness, and urine. I'm still wearing my one-piece, navy blue swimsuit. I keep thinking about my clarinet. Why do I keep thinking about my damned clarinet?
Hey, you say. I look up, startled and excited. I hear the heavy door to the changing room close. Oh, hey, I say. I've been waiting. I know, you say. You're still wearing your trunks. Your torso is bare and thin but taunt, like a willow tree's branch. You're tanned brown; you're hair is white blond from the hours in the sun. I feel so bad for Susan, I say, willing dejection in into my voice. Yeah, you answer. That was bad. Yes, it was, I say. You nod. We both have climbed over the fence to get back into the pool tonight. This is the fifth time we've done this. We feel special, separate, ready for the ascension to play. We are enamored. We are both ripe.
I'll bet your mother about shit, I say. You look at me and smirk. You wouldn't believe it, you reply. God, she hugged me and hugged me and I'm like Jesus, Mom. I smile and giggle. I know, I say. I look at your trunks. I'm absently swinging my feet. We are sitting on one of the two wooden benches in front of the lockers nobody ever uses. I'm tilting my head, noticing the gentle outline of your penis in your trunks. By the yellowed light of the dusk-to-dawn light that has crept underneath the heavy door leading to the pool, I can see your glans, Preston, through your trunks, everything, the coronal ridge, how it curves so slightly to the left, everything: your growing opaque pubic hair matted to your lower abdomen, so dark a cloud on so light a canvas, your left ball, squeezed against your thighs lower than your right ball. She was so worried, you say. I know.
I notice how your nipples are so small and wrinkly. Your broadening back and shoulders are sunburned and peeling and covered with a small splay of acne. I stand and walk behind you; you lean forward and hug your knees, like a pregnant woman preparing to receive an epidural. You know that I love to peel the dead skin from your back. I start slowly, picking at you, finding a flapping corner of white skin below a freckle on your right, wing-like shoulder blade. I dig a fingernail into you, flicking upward, toward the ceiling; I glance over your back, noticing the bulge growing in your trunks. You shift your weight to accommodate the metamorphosing member, still strange to you. You clear your throat. You're at that age, able to come globs at just a touch and never lose a bit of hardness. I peel from you, your skin, thin and delicate, like a butterfly's wing. I'd like to put it in my mouth. That would be so gross. I'd like to do it. I drop the bit of the peeled membrane, gray as a dried out condom lying on a sidewalk. I find another piece of skin, dead, lower on your spine. I push you forward, exposing the top of your ass, so bare and slick, Preston; I can see the hint of your crack. I dig a fingernail into you, pressing hard. Jesus, you say. Oh shut up, I answer, smiling. I flick my finger, unearthing your lifeless skin like I'm digging for buried treasure. I grab the skin between thumb and forefinger and start peeling. I lower to my knees, tugging dead skin with my right hand and living skin with my left. I've slipped my left hand into your trunks, encircling your swollen glans with an okay sign. I pull and squeeze and caress and you gasp in seconds; my hand disappears in white quicksand. I imagine the slit in your dick undulating, Preston, its mouth opening and closing in spasms like a feeding baby bird. You're coming, I say. You just grunt. I can see the muscles at the top of your ass contracting. I love the word come. I love saying coming to you, Preston, breathing it hot in your ear, spraying the word onto you like perfume. Um um, you say. I pull my hand from your trunks and taste a congealing part of you, Preston. I taste you, your come, Preston: slick, snotty consistency, salty and sweet, tears of joy from your cock. I pull the dead skin in one continuous piece up your back, following your spine to your neck, before it breaks off. You're so pink, Preston, underneath all the burned brown summer skin, Preston, you're so pink and new. Jeez, you say, responding like a little boy.
I hear the drip, drip, drip of the showerheads, impotent now, Preston, but during the day so hard, blasting away the dead skin of so many boys and girls, their bare butts so cumulous cloud white, so daisy petal white, their youth chipped away so slowly. The showerheads kill us, so full of innocence and possibility. They melt boys and girls. Don't you see, Preston? All the jovial, if slightly self-conscious white bottoms, all of the pink bodies, so new, smelling like freshly folded towels, are blasted away, skin cell by skin cell, leaving resignation and loss. The drip, drip, drip of the showerheads mock us, Preston; they're snickering like wallflowers at a school dance, snickering at us because we dance, and they don't. The showerheads want to kill us, Preston. Your come, Preston, is already drying on my fingers, leaving a tightening grip where a wet, lapping tongue should be. Why must we evaporate?
We're quiet. You drip from my hands in time with the dripping showerheads. Your breathing is strained. You don't know what to do next. Your first hand job. You'd like to leave: a little boy's response. Reciprocation does not enter your mind. I close my eyes and see Susan's bugged out eyes, her swollen face, her limp body, and I hear the white noise of a hundred kids all screaming, the radio blaring, set to Cool 101.5-your Superstation. I hear and feel asphyxiating splashing water from every direction, the older boys performing jackknifes and cowboys and cannon balls off the high dive, sporadic whistles from the lifeguards, mothers' chitchat, the arcade games beeping, crying babies, the Coke and Pepsi machines' constant drones, airplanes flying, and, louder than anything, more real than anything, are your whispers in my ears, Preston. Everything you say is hilarious or enticing or exciting, always inviting. When you whisper in my ear, I almost faint. All the Harlequin Romances, all the clichés, everything-they're all true because of you, Preston.
Among legs and flailing arms and screams and whistles, you kiss my neck and you brush my lips with your own, Preston. Our first kiss and it's in the pool. You're trying to trip me, to push me backwards, I'm laughing, you kiss me again. Suddenly. With you, Preston, everything is so sudden. You spin away. You don't know what to do next: you try to dunk me under water: a little boy's response. I tingle all over, surrendering myself to you forever if you'll take me: a little girl's response. Legs are kicking us, Preston, scratching us. You're telling me a joke, whispering in my ear. You are hilarious. You are my elevator to the clouds. Your breath smells like Sour Onion Potato Chips and Dr.Pepper. My legs are being attacked by small children's kicking feet. Crowded. We move deeper, you and I, toward the deep-end. I must bounce on my toes to keep my head above water. Short little teenie-weenie, you say. I stick my tongue out. I stare at your Adam's apple, nesting in you throat, a berry ready to burst. I feel more damned kicks and scratches around my legs, annoyances, minnow nibbles. I finally look down and see Susan, limp around my feet, her eyes wide and absent, her mouth forming an O. My shins are streaked red from her scratches.
She'd tried to keep up with me.
I hear the lifeguards' panicky whistles.
I'm pushed out of the way. I stand on the concrete, dripping water, staring at dead Susan White while a lifeguard pumps her tiny chest and Cindy Lauper's "girls just wanna have fun" fills my ears.
Randy and Hope's little boy, Brice, grips my index finger and with my thumb I stroke the rest of his tiny hand, pink like a baby rabbit. With his other hand, Brice alternately grabs his big toe then his penis. Talk about an eater, one of the nurses says to me, referring to Brice. I chuckle as the baby sucks my finger; his benign little mouth searching anxiously for a nipple. What do you see, Brice, through your blurry eyes, staring back at you? Do you see a person who loves you, or just the distorted brightness of the overhead fluorescent lights?
He bites so hard, says Hope, hobbling, still very sore from the incision. She's come to breastfeed. He's hungry, I say. Hope sits in a chair, uncovers her B cup breasts with her small nipples. After Brice's mouth finds his mother's left nipple, I swear I can see his eyes light up in intensity matched only by those odd creatures living so many miles below the ocean's surface, glowing from within a phosphorescent brightness that illuminates the pressure and absence of their world.