I’m jogging in the deep end of the pool when I say it out loud to H. “I feel as if I should feel more.” I’m worried I’ve become jaded. I’m afraid so much violence and destruction and abuse and so many natural disasters and so many people turning so many blind eyes have made me immune to the shock of the shootings in Colorado.
H doesn’t answer me.
On the deck of the pool, a young lifeguard stretches goggles across his face and steps into swim fins. He’s holding a broom. It’s the kind my dad used to use to sweep out debris in our garage when I was young. I remember the way my dad would lean into the brushing and the sweeping as dust swirled around his head. His garage was always spotless, with all the things people keep in garages in all the right places. The lawnmower was tucked into a corner of the garage, the rake leaned up against the wall, trash cans on the back wall, and a generator safely stored in case another ice storm knocked out power and kicked off the heat on cold Michigan nights in the fall.
H and I don’t have a generator and lately I’ve been thinking we should get one. I think it would be practical. Like owning a shop-vac.
Now the lifeguard is in the pool. I can see the back of his head just above the surface of the water. He’s sweeping the bottom of the pool. “You do that before you vacuum?” H asks when the lifeguard stops to catch his breath.
“We don’t vacuum,” the lifeguard says, and I wonder how old he is. He looks as if he’s seventeen, but the way he speaks makes me think he’s older.
“Do any of the pools in town vacuum?” H asks. It’s our second time to the public pool this year and H is still undecided about whether he prefers these public pools to the private pool at the gym where he has a membership.
The lifeguard looks as if he’s thinking. “No,” he finally says. “I don’t think any of the pools vacuum.”
“Hunh,” H says.
“I’m just sweeping the stuff off the bottom into the deep end,” the lifeguard answers. “They painted the pool, but now the paint is chipping away. I don’t think they did a very a good job.”
“Yeah,” H says.
“In fact,” the lifeguard says “I found a wasp painted to the bottom of the pool.” He laughs then, and so does H. I can feel the gritty chips of paint beneath the tip of my big toe. The water here is five feet deep and if I stretch my big toe as far as I can, I can touch the bottom. Otherwise, I tread water, or jog in place, or float on my back and look at a sky that hasn’t rained in weeks. I think I should buy a water purifier.
The lifeguard disappears again beneath the water, pushing the grit into the deep end and I can’t get the image of a wasp painted to the bottom of the pool out of my mind. I make up all kinds of stories. I spin stories about the person who painted the wasp. I imagine what it would have been like to have been the wasp. I wonder if the supervisor knew about the wasp, or if it was the supervisor who painted the wasp in place. Had the wasp been alive before a paint roller sealed its fate?
I tell myself the wasp would have lived if my dad or H had been in charge. But who can know for sure?
“I don’t think I’m coming back here,” H tells me a few minutes later.
I get it. And I can’t blame him. But, at a time like this, I still wish I could do better than longing for a pool someone else has vacuumed.