Free Write Friday: Pool


I hold her squirming, slippery toddler thighs, evasive like slick eels. She clomps her feet down, uneasy steps in the little pool, even with the extra buoyancy of the chlorinated water. She likes to open her mouth, like a great whale, letting the pool seep in, then out through her widely spaced teeth, two on top, two on bottom. She, surprisingly, exults in going under, seems to fall purposely: Oops! Silly me! Throwing her head back, eyes squeezed tight shut as she leads with her upturned chin, mouth open, nostrils flared, beckoning the water toward her until she is fully immersed, sinking, trusting that I’ll catch her, lift her upright to breathe clear air. As she emerges, a look of unadulterated glee followed by just the faintest hint of melancholy. A mermaid she wishes she could be.


She is so thin and graceful, wearing an electric blue bikini, mousy hair. I’m surprised when she approaches me poolside. Overweight and awkward, I wear my pudginess like armor; it keeps me humble, it keeps me introverted. I long to be charming, liked. Don’t we all at this preteen age? (At every age.) I can’t believe it: friends with me? She’s inquisitive, chatty, polished. I feel more elegant just being near her. It is revealed eventually, this is the truth: I am just a means to her end, a conduit for connection to my tall, older brother. He has reached the golden age: past gangliness, past acne, post-braces. I’m in awe of him too. 


I’m learning to swim in the side pool, previously a hot tub but converted to what we call “the baby pool.” A bridge of dark brown tiles, just an inch under the surface, divides the tiny pool from the larger. Like a stumpy appendage, a bleb of an outgrowth, the small pool protrudes. The older kids like to coast back and forth on their tummies, sliding like monk seals. I can barely touch the bottom, on my tippy toes I bounce along, suspended for just a moment, like a moonwalking astronaut. A perimeter ledge for seating, I leap from side to side arms outstretched with orange inflated “muscles,” skinny legs flailing behind me. Sometimes I sink under with the effort, sour liquid up my nostrils, eyes stinging from chlorine. I grab the a handhold of smooth tile, turn, and try again.

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Free Write Friday: Pier

Tourists flock to the historic pier, smart phones in hand, they extend their arms to capture snapshots of pink faces with emerald mountains regal in the distance. They stroll down the concrete walkway, flip flops flapping, gazing side to side. 

Slender sailboats dot the bay, punctuating the azure waters. Vacationers cool down with a swim or awkwardly attempt use of a boogie board to ride a wave. Children kneel on the beach, legs caked with sunscreen, industriously patting at the wet sand to form castles with heaped towers and scooped moats. 

On the other side of the pier sunset catamarans embark where the river meets the bay. Crimson kayaks coast toward the ocean at the outlet, stand up paddleboarders glide along the shoreline. In the distance, pods of surfers catch wave breaks in the hazy early dawn light. 

A roof offers shade at the end of the pier. People linger at the edge, waiting to see if the local fisherman will make a catch. Teens taunt each other to jump off the blocky corner. Signs warn: “Shallow. No Diving.” But they’re not seen, or ignored. The clear waters allow visualization to the sandy depths from high above.

Eventually, the revelers will meander back. Maybe grab a carne asada or fish taco from the food truck for lunch. Sitting on the south side of the pier, a half moon of ridged mountains astound. The pier juts silently into the breathtaking panorama.

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Free Write Friday: Current

I was a cautious child, hesitating to do anything that might jeopardize a fragile status quo. But I grew up spending my summers on the beaches of the north shore of Kauai and grew comfortable with the fickle ocean, the swells of the sea, the ebb and flow of the tide.  

In the afternoon sun I could float on my body board for hours, waiting to catch a wave. I got to know the patterns of the ocean; a swell would come and I could predict if and when it would crest, white foam spilling over onto itself. I could anticipate if the swell would falter, just a tease of a wave really, petering out before it reached the sandy shore. 

Sometimes I’d get lost in my own reverie, daydreaming with the hypnotic rise and fall of the waves. I’d look up to realize I was far from my mom on the shore who was pretending to read a book. A worrier, like me, I suspect she was always half watching us rather than lounging, making sure we weren’t caught in a current or by a wave we couldn’t withstand. 

Sometimes her arms would flail back and forth over her head, like windshield wipers, her miniature form signaling from a distance. Maybe it was time to go, head back to the condo to wash off the sand that stuck in nooks and crevices of sunburned skin or was trapped beneath the mesh lining of my Lycra swimsuit. Or maybe she had noticed all the swimmers veering off to her left or to her right, a strong current carrying away her babies in tow. She’d put down her unread novel and signal us to the safety of the shore. 

A momentary flash of panic, my mother’s voice echoed in my head that it was better to swim parallel to the shore, not directly perpendicular, if caught in a riptide or strong current. Not the most direct route, it seems counter intuitive, but it’s the key to safely reaching solid ground. I’d heed her advice, tanned arms pumping overhead, one after the other, slowly carrying me back to white sands. 

When I reached the shore, my feet on solid ground, and looked back at the water it all looked so innocuous, so unassuming. But the metal warning signs posted on sturdy rods stuck deep in the sand and my mother’s furrowed brow admonished: don’t underestimate its power, be careful. If you’re not, it might just carry you away.

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