Memoir Experiment Part Three

Dipping into a small salt-water pool on the roof of a hotel in Los Angeles, I experience two profound and simultaneous revelations: 1. I love salt-water swimming pools and their uterine feel of buoyancy and security; 2. I am very suspicious of hairless men. My chest is matted with gray hair and I’m thrashing awkwardly about, like an arthritic bear. I have the feeling I’m the only who merely “had breakfast” … everyone else assimilated an optimum blend of amino acids.

There is something deeply aesthetically satisfying about a nice hotel pool, pyramids of fluffy towels erected everywhere, a blinding white in the sun. The pool water seeming to be a blue so specific to pools, one hunts for the right color adjective—azure, cyan, sapphire, or cerulean—in vain. The whole experience is ontologically connected to color. White. Blue. The subtle, shifting flesh tone as one watches the skin darken, carcinomically. I push off and glide toward the other side.

My father taught me to swim. My mother, on the other hand, retains a life-long fear of water. I can picture her wrapped in a life jacket, face frozen in a rictus of terror as we all raced across Lake Tahoe in a motorboat. We weren’t afraid, my sisters, my father, and I. Dad took us swimming all the time. “Swimming,” not just “to the pool,” or better still the beach. I must have grown to resent the fact that the pool, which I was inclined to associate with fun, became a place of discipline and duty. My father had me count my laps and work towards some lofty-sounding goal … half mile, mile, long distances back and forth going nowhere. He taught me to swim the American crawl, a vigorous, patriotic stroke. But he didn’t generally use this stroke. He had developed a unique version of the breaststroke. Now I am as old as he was when he taught me to swim and I find myself swimming that same languid breaststroke, head always above water, slow and purposeful. I don’t count my strokes and I rarely swim more than two or three laps. I don’t go to the pool to swim. I sunbathe and read and drink and people watch (not the same as merely watching people). I like how it feels as the sun and warm breeze dry the beads of water from my skin, and it grows very warm, so I dip once again into the pool, order another drink, and feel the water and the sun and remember.

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