Water, 80. PH, 7.4 the same as tears in the human eye. Chlorine, 3 parts per million — ideal. The sun is out. Southwest wind off the Atlantic. 8 a.m., May 30, 2013. “Blue Bayou” is playing softly over the resort’s hidden speakers. Smell of rich coffee on the wind. The hose water has darkened the teak deck in Rorschach renderings, food for thought; spilled champagne? Spilled blood? Spilled memories.
Now, “It’s Just the Nearness of You,” Ella singing with Stachmo. Twenty-seven corporate types, beauty and fragrance products, eating croissants with French accents. Others returning from the beach. They had better wash the sand off their feet before entering my pool or I’ll need to backwash the filter ahead of schedule.
They float weightless, heads lost in clouds of fragrance, clouds of money, without a thought about what it takes to keep this pool amniotic warm. No thought of the chemistry to maintain the water like tears and no crueler. I have the power to make the sweet-smelling, lotion-annointed capitalists cry. With just the twist of a knob, I could have them crawling, eyes bleeding from my pool. Time it for their morning swim, their daily return to the womb where they float, forget their sins, conjure their lies, invent their unguents, create a world smelled through rose-tinted noses — I can engineer it so by the time their eyes bleed I will have already twisted the appropriate knobs to return the water to comfortable tears so they will blame last night’s alcohol consumption, their regretted fornications for their bleeding eyes, and not me.
I am in command of their womb. They know me as Poolboy, but I am master of the Uterus.
Utero is pristine today. The sun is hot, chlorine and ph levels perfect for crystalline water quality. This morning while kneeling on my haunches beside her with my test kit I felt momentarily like the White Rock Girl, the one with the delicate wings and short gossamer robe
who knelt beside a pond and freshet on the label of soda bottles. This is troubling, of course being that I am not faery like. Far from it. I fought the image, banished it until I realized it was but a hermphroditic reflection, my posture combined with the feminine beauty that surrounds Utero on mornings like this. Reflections of me, Poolboy, and them, the long-legged, bikini-waxed, perfectly-breasted resort vixens joined in concentric rippling reflections. They languish about the pool oiled on white cushioned teak pallets. Wiping their oil from Utero’s white-tiled walls where it forms just above her surface is part of my job.
Later in the day I was asked, by the woman who keeps the small shop offering sheer silk wraps, sun hats, and beeswax-based pomade, to keep an eye on it while she got a coffee from the cafe. A girl entered, striped bikini, 26 perhaps, athletic body, sparkling blue eyes with which she grazed about the shelves while fingering the wraps, trying on a hat before moving on to the shelf of pomades. “May I,” she asked preparing to remove the lid on one of the tins.
“Yes,” I said carrying not whether this might be a retail no-no.
“Ummmm,” she sang.
Glory be to God, I thought. She read the ingredients on the cover.
“Bees wax,” she said looking into my eyes.
“Yes,” I said unaware of the significance. She smiled.
“I keep bees in Colorado,” she said. It was one of those moments that drowning men must feel, a similar panic on a far smaller scale, of course. She kept bees in Colorado. What rhymes with Colorado? Bees live in hives. I’m getting hives. What rhymes with bees? Please. My tongue swelled. Can’t talk. There was no rope of words with which to lasso “I keep bees in Colorado.”
“I heard they’re dying, I sputtered. “Dying,” what a thing to say to a beautiful girl less than half a Poolboy’s age.
“Yes, she said. “All over the world. We can’t live without bees.” She returned to her pallet. It was like drowning.
Another beautiful day has dawned and I’m here in its early orange glory. I’m having trouble with the larger pool’s filter pump. It needs to be backwashed, a routine process that flushes the build-up of dead insets, grit, small stuff that sneaks past the skimmer drains. I use a separate, portable pump to vacuum Utero’s sides and bottom. I permit nothing to adhere. Nothing is allowed to grow. The blond girl from Slovakia has returned to run the resort’s cafe. The birds are singing.
Summer begins tomorrow morning, the solstice. She sees past me, or through me. I’m an older man, a Poolboy, but I am safe. Does she appreciate that I permit nothing to grow? I smile and she smiles back. The filter pump to the small kidney-shaped, kiddy pool is working perfectly. The water roiling from the jet on the south end bubbles like a brook today. The beads of dew glistening on the fabric pallet mats would be freshly deposited frog eggs if Utero had lilly pads. In their absence they glisten like sterile diamonds, like the crystal facets on the surface of Utero with her perfectly balanced chemistry, like the diamond earring that appeared in the portable pump’s plastic strainer basket two days ago.
The Spanish workers said the owner was on her knees, “en sus rodillos,” in the lobby crying for the earring(s) plural, that she’d lost. The fact that she had fallen on her knees, as in supplication, impressed the workers. The earrings were extremely valuable, a gift from her fiance, at least five karats each, they’d heard her cry. I think more. The one I found is big, big enough to have pulled on her pretty lobes. They might have hurt her despite the loving magnanimosity of her fiance’s gesture. They probably caused her pain and fear that the stones would stretch her lobes toward her shoulders like the African women in National Geographic. Perhaps two glasses of house sangria caused her to slip them off while taking a dip. Perhaps they slipped from her lotioned hand as she was putting them in the secret money pouch in her bikini top. I’m not sure bikini tops have secret stashes. They should.
The management has asked the workers to keep their eyes peeled. Oh, they’re peeled all right as in a new car, si dios quiere (if God wills it) as in el sueno Ameriano to the max. The treasure hunt is on. This place has never been so broomed, wiped, and manicured. Meanwhile the one earring is safe in my keeping. The other one is hiding, camouflaged in Utero’s crystaline water. My vacuum will find it.
When showing me the ropes, the guy who hired me said I’d find vacuuming the pool “meditative.” I thought he was playing me, like the insight gained while vacuuming would more than compensate for the shitty wage.
He showed me how to hook the hose to the portable pump, the other end to the vacuum wand. The pole has a long handle and a telescoped section that can be extended to reach way to the bottom of the deep end. The head has rollers for smooth transiting along the pool’s rounded walls and bottom.
He was right. Some times, standing, looking down into utero when she’s mirror calm, I have a clear view of the bottom. Other times her surface is roughed by the wind to obscure the bottom, but always there’s the humming of the pump as I circle around, the hum and the sinuous undulations of the vacuum hose like the snake of Eve. What I remove is mostly Band-Aids, hair, hair ties, sand, silt blown in by the wind, pebbles and melted cocktail napkins.
A melted cocktail napkin with a phone number blurred into insignificance, a failed opportunity, a broken dream. Nothing grows here. I can’t allow it. And yet, there’s another diamond down there somewhere. At times I push and pull the vacuum in precise furrows like a farmer to find it, perhaps too precise. So, I snake it around following the hose’s inclinations and imagine that the diamond is calling the tune, directing my wand away like a coy mistress. That’s why I laugh on occasion and draw quizzical looks from the drowsy teak palletettes, the first to arrive poolside each morning just as I’m putting away my wand.
A young man named Miles has made a career out of applying sunscreen and tanning oil. He’s good looking and I think it’s actually, sub rosa, part of his job. He smooths unguents onto beautiful backs, and the backs of legs, talking softly. I can’t hear what he’s saying, but the women smile. They get hot after baking front and back for precisely equal lengths of time. Then they enter the water slowly down the pool steps unsmiling, big sunglasses shielding the roving of their eyes, the sun oil slipping like a skin from their long, dolphin-smooth limbs as from molting mantises. They descend haughtily, with post-coital decapitation aforethought, trailing a rainbow sheen that will adhere to the pool sides, a sticky gray callous that I must circle Utero on my knees with a Tuffy pad to remove.
I’ve spoken mostly of the resort’s women. There are a corresponding number of men, of course, like in Noah’s Ark, but in their case Noah looks to have had a difficult cull. The men are shaven from top to bottom, heads shiny or buzz cut like Marines, but fey Marines shorn of chest hair, oiled, many sporting tattoos with designs celebrating lost tribes, Rolling Stones tongues, and Jesus. I see lots of apparently-pithy quotes from Ayn Rand, or Donald Trump inked on chests, backs, and legs, but one can’t actually read them without appearing to be possessed of unhealthy appetites. It’s not so much their hearts they wear on their sleeves, as in my day, but their cartoonish gray matter — not a pretty sight.
I say shorn, but the faces of these men have a perpetual two-day shadow, an eighth inch growth of beard as though they were fishermen just returned from an offshore trip, or lumberjacks just home from the woods.The carefully-trimmed stubble is meant to bely the truth of their computer-screened, virtual existence.
To my eyes the resort’s men are diminished, muscled, yes, and often tall, yet gnomish with bullet heads covered by porkpie hats like clowns wear to make their heads look big. They call them fedoras, but fedoras were what Humphrey Bogart wore. They lounge beside the mantises on the teak pallets, stoop-shouldered and down-gazing as though their Iphones were prayer books, blind to the world and with black wires, like charred, varicose neurons, leaking from their ears. Perhaps I’m too harsh. Could be I’m jealous. After all, it is with these Wall Street hipsters the mantises cavort. Not with an aging poolboy.