The Public Pool

Emelyn Fuhram

Emelyn Fuhrman

There are the pieces of hair that get caught around my arms and fingertips, a Band-Aid let loose, the potent chlorine, but it’s the movement of the water that’s most unsettling.  The water raises my swollen belly higher than it’s used to, not allowing gravity to keep it flopped over my bathing suit bottom like a third sagging breast.

There’s a small boy in red swim trunks jumping into the shallow end, again and again, using up half of the jumps in his lifetime, and each time he gets out he tugs his bottoms up. We have this is common. His mother, in a purple suit, suns herself just off to the right. She’s close enough to hear him, to feel the outermost drops of water from his splashes, to be sure of him. I wonder if that is all it takes.

I wonder if the baby notices we are in the pool; if the water inside my uterus is in harmony with the water outside. But I know it doesn’t work that way. There is no surface to a womb.

The little boy tries a cannon ball. He hugs his knees to his chest and tucks his chin. It sounds like a hand on skin, like the water itself has broken, and his mother stirs. She lifts her head at the neck, the smallest movement she can make. He laughs it off and climbs out again, tugging up his shorts, flipping his hair back. His small, choreographed movements go unnoticed, as if they are instinctual.

I like the idea that Baby and I are both swimming at the same time. In solidarity, I hold my breath and sink, pushing water with my arms to keep myself from slipping back up.

Suddenly, the little boy is under the water with us. I can see him emerge from his cocoon of white bubbles, kicking his little legs. I want to call out to him, “You are safe here.” But he keeps kicking, trying to find his way out.

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