The Hot Guy I Met at the Pool
I attract a lot of attention when I don a swimsuit. A lot of unwanted attention. From guys. My trip to the pool last Saturday was no exception.
I was down at Orange Beach last weekend. My family and I. Getting a little r & r. I had taken my son to the condo’s pool early that Saturday morning. My hair was a briny, drown-rat mess from a dip in the gulf, and my skin, thanks to a thick coat of SPF 50 (and unfortunate genes), was the pale iridescent lavender-white of a low-grade opal.
See? And you thought I was exaggerating. You’d think the invisibility cloak of middle-aged mediocrity would shield me from the attention of strange guys, but that is simply not the case.
The fella that started it up with me last week… he was hot. He told me so himself. He said, “I’m hot. Can I have some a your drink?”
And I said, “No you can’t, because it’s coffee, and it’s mine.”
The source of the voice, the guy asking for a sip of my beverage, was standing in the pool. And he was cute. I’ll admit that. But he was a dopey sort of cute, and he was unabashedly desperate for my attention. I’d put him at about seven years old. Or a husky six. Classic. Just the sort of freckled head I always turn.
He scrunched up his nose when I said coffee, then pushed off the floor of the shallow end and started floating on his back like a little otter. “Ya’ll on vacation?”
“Yes,” I answered. And I knew then that I’d not get to read my book in peace. Or enjoy any one-on-one time with my own boy. No nodding off to sleep. There’d be me and this chubby little Alabamian for the duration of the morning.
I’m irresistible to kindergarteners. Kids at this age, they love a mom. They love their own mothers, obviously, but by the time they get a year of grade school under belts, their eyes start to wander. Take offense if you’d like, moms, but it is the truth. They all do it. Start checking out other mothers. How do you suppose she cuts the crust off the toast, they wonder. Natural curiosity. The seven year itch.
So this kid – let’s call him “Travis.” (He never told me his name, but he looked like a Travis to me.) Travis wore red swim trunks that were covered in spiky blue blow fish. He had a fuchsia band of sunburn across the bridge of his nose, and he loved me instantly. I don’t know if it was the splotched melasma spanning my forehead, the contrast it created against the natural skim-milk tone of my skin. Maybe it was the ruching across the midsection of my dark, modest one-piece. Perhaps it was the fact that I was drinking coffee outdoors a week before the forth of July. Whatever it was, this guy, he just knew I was a mom.
Travis was confident that I wanted to see him do a cannonball. And another cannonball. And a handstand in the shallow end.
“Watch me! Watch this! Look. Look!”
After several rounds of this, I said, “Listen, honey, I’ve got to watch my own little boy.” I pointed to William, who was cautiously entering the steps of the pool. White-knuckling the rail. Wearing a life jacket. “He can’t swim yet. I need to keep my eyes on him all the time. I’m sure your own mom will watch you.”
“How come he can’t swim?” Travis asked. In Travis’s dialect, can’t rhymes with paint. I felt a secret shame that this little knuckle-dragger was so at ease in the water while my clever William could not even doggie paddle.
“He is still learning,” I said. “I have to watch him.”
“Want me to teach him?” Travis asked. He stood in the water, mouth agape, and waited for me to accept his offer. He pronounced “him” in such a way that it rhymed with “team.” I was suddenly fearful that Travis’s lesson would do more harm than good.
“Where is your mother?”
“She’s off yunder.” he said. “So you want me to teach him to swim?”
My mind jumped to Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men – to the gentle, slow-witted character Lenny, who accidentally broke that woman’s neck while stroking her soft hair with a heavy hand. And I said, “I guess, but do not hold him underwater. Do you understand? Not for a second.”
Travis nodded, darted out of the water like a Sea World dolphin, went under for a moment, and surfaced next to my land-loving son. He said, “Go like this,” and then swam around in a circle for ten seconds. That was the extent of his swimming lesson.
I closed my eyes for a moment while the boys played. And I mean, just for a moment. Then I heard, “Watch this! Hey, watch! Watch what I’ma do!”
The urge was to keep my eyes closed. To pretend I had not heard him. To feign sleep. The source of Travis’s voice was moving and changing, though, and curiosity got the best of me. I opened my eyes to find him at the top of the bridge. This bridge (pictured), with waterfall, which is quite high and above a mere three feet of water:
“I’ma jump off the waterfall.” Travis said. And with that proclamation, he began trying to hoist his thick little leg over the top of the bridge.
“Stop!” I shouted. “You aren’t allowed to do that.”
“There ain’t no sign, is there?” Still climbing.
“Yes there is a sign. Look down there. Can you read what it says?” He shrugged. So no, he could not read what it said. And then I felt better about my non-swimming son, who can read like a mad man.
“It says, ‘Do not climb on fountain.'” I said.
“I’ma jump off it!” He clarified.
“No you’re not, kid. I won’t let you.”
“How come?” He was shouting at this point. We both were. Between the distance and the noise from the waterfall, there was no way to communicate without shouting.
“Because you’re going to give yourself a spinal cord injury!”
“A SPINAL. CORD. IN-JUR-Y!”
“Please come down! I want to see you do a handstand instead!”
“Yes! Come do a handstand in the water.”
So Travis came down and did a handstand. And another. And I put my book underneath my chair, such was my certainty that I’d not get to read a page of it. And when Travis heard a jack hammer from off somewhere in the distance and wanted to know if someone was fixing popcorn, I told him no. And when he asked me if I thought there might be a shark in the pool, again, I answered in the negative.
Later that morning, a large, doughy man and two thick-necked boys, ages 10 and 13 from the looks of them, came to fetch Travis. They walked down the boardwalk to the beach in ascending order: Travis, his brothers, and their father. They looked like a set of Russian dolls. Heavy-set, slack-jawed Russian dolls.
I decided not to speak to the father. Not to sarcastically ask if he’d enjoyed sleeping in or ask him where he had been earlier that morning when I was saving his son’s life. Because who knows how many other parents out there have worked, unbeknownst to me, to protect my children’s central nervous systems. Sometimes I’m off yunder. It happens. Raising kids is tough, and we as parents have to look out for each other. That being the case, perhaps looking matronly in your swimwear isn’t such a bad thing after all. Maybe it is life-saving attention that we are attracting in our dark, modest one-pieces.
“It takes a village to raise a child.”