Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Unofficial Lifeguard

Part One

Summer, 1977

I sit--the unofficial lifeguard who will save two lives this summer--sunbathing and sweating at poolside. A beer at hand getting warmer. Shouts of children and the deeper hum of adults mixes with the rumble of traffic from Jefferson Highway. Later the children will tire and go in; a few adults will remain then leave for showers before Saturday night movies or parties or smoky barbecues on small balconies or enclosed patios. Saturday nights the pool is empty, the traffic vibrating the water enough to smear the reflection of white-lighted windows and yellow bug-lights in long bands across the dark water.

Nights are quiet at poolside with only an occasional person loaded with laundry passing by or some people on their way to the parking lot. After 10 p.m. even the underwater lights are extinguished and I often slip out of my bathing suit and let it sink to the deepest part of the pool as I swim away, unencumbered, bubbles of air moving along my body like the touch of silk.

The pool is crowded today.

Both daughters are tanned and slick. They cruise underwater like seals, arms along their sides in a graceful glide. Laurie surfaces quickly, hands running over her hair to slick it back off of her face. She checks to see that her sunglasses are still on the side of the pool then sinks below the surface and propels herself off the bottom of the pool. Jennifer crashes to the surface from below, head tilted back, streaming water slicking back her hair. Beads of moisture form a mosaic on her dark face.

I watch, ready to save them, reading a novel about the center not holding, reading a sentence or two at a time before checking on them.

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