Sarah and I used to go swimming late at night in the Coachman Inn pool. I'd close the pool at 10:00 pm, sending vacationing families, bored businessmen and travelling sailors back to their rooms, forcing them to wrap up in insufficiently-sized white hotel towels and dash, steaming, through the cold island-night air. I was the pool Nazi, lending no leniency to those who sought to delay the frigid run to their rooms.
At 11:00 pm I'd hand my responsibilities over to Sue, the night auditor. Sue wore with pride a ratty, crooked grey wig to cover the beautiful, pearly-white curls that haloed softly around her head. I asked her about it once, with all the niavety of a 19-year-old who spent far too much time in hair care. "It's much easier to throw on a wig than to set my hair," she croaked. Her voice wobbled, high-pitched and frail with age. It was my greatest fear that I would come in some morning for my 7:00 am shift to find Sue folded peacefully on the back room couch, stiff and cold in death, slipped away in the night.
We brought nothing but our bathing suits, oversized towels and a snorkel mask. We made our own dash, half-clothed, from the car to the softly glowing heat of the pool. We slipped through the water silently--any sudden noises might inflict the geriatric wrath of Sue. "People are trying to sleep, you know!"
Sarah and I would take turns with the snorkel mask, lifting our bodies as high out of the water as we could, and swan diving backwards, head first, face out. A good kick off allowed us to crumple on the floor of the deep end, and the challenge lie in reaching this spot with only the propulsion of the initial kick, plunging as deeply as possible with no help from our limbs.
And then we would float. Drifting towards the surface as slowly as possible, body limp and flat, face lifted, hair pooling around our faces like a swirling sea of blond kelp. This was my quiet place. With breath burning in my chest I took time to look, to feel. I lost myself in a world muted by water. Through the snorkel mask I gazed at the distorted night sky. It pooled and swelled above me, stars relocated by the current of the waters, a gentle swirl as Sarah tread water nearby.
The pool held an eerie quality late at night. Underwater silence found its twin in the night air stillness and steam drifted softly across the surface, backlit by the pool lights. It cradled me like an infant in the womb, and in my comfort I dreaded my birth.