My barefoot husband walks towards me in ankle-deep slush. Dream fog fades into a muddy brown, revealing nighttime, a parking lot. But where? He stops. Slush oozes through his toes.
I circle, body following head. Club house, pro-shop, a green (If I remember correctly, it’s the eighth hole.), the ninth tee, and the scoreboard where in my youth, after long days of swimming, I sat on a bench lit by orangepink hues: legs dangling, looking out over the fairway through the multitude of rainbows, shimmering through fanning sprinklers, waiting for my mom or dad. I cherished this aloneness. A deep serenity, that like the waning day, dissolved as soon as I left this place. I forced the entire aesthetic to overwhelm my senses. I needed it, too, buried deep within my DNA.
“Let’s take a swim,” he says. In blue swim trunks, my husband stands against the cold, mud-brown dark. His pale Irish skin lights the periphery of his body, causing an aura-like glow.
I know it’s winter. I know the pool is empty but ask, “Did you bring our towels?”
“I left them in the car.”
“It’s okay. We can use the ones in the locker room.”
“No, I want ours,” he turns and squelches through the lot.
I walk around the pro-shop and past the first tee. My yellow A-lined linen dress bellows in the winter wind. Why is John here, when I’ve never, in twenty years of marriage, brought him here?
I stop at the steps leading to the pool. It’s empty, of course. An L-shaped crater-mouth in the earth thirty feet below me. I didn’t expect there to be any water. I didn’t expect to swim. But I had to come. I had to look. Just in case. Because that’s what I do.
I stand on the ledge remembering the hottest summer of my youth. 1978: I was thirteen. In southeastern Iowa, we experienced ten days in a row of temperatures above 100 degrees. A crack delayed swimming by two weeks. Everyday my best friend and I road our bikes to the club, stopped at these same steps and stared into the empty hole below. We had to see for ourselves. Just in case.
Why are you here? And, John? In swim trunks? I turn back towards the pro-shop. As I walk to the scoreboard, the season changes to late summer, the night, to an early evening sky. I ask myself, how many times will I continue to look just to prove to myself something I already know?
How many times do I have look at crazy, to know crazy? How many times do I have to look at the cavernous eyes of my parents to know they are too far away to be found? Just in case.
I dangle my legs over the bench. The sprinklers emerge shooting their rainbow producing fans across the plush green fairways. I close my eyes. I open them to see my parents pulling up beside the bench. Dread and panic defeats peace and serenity. I reluctantly walk towards the car.
Lying in my bed, back-to-back with John, I instruct my dream self. This is why he’s here. You don’t have to do this.
That’s why John came. He’s in the car, your car, waiting to take you home.