the girl in the pool has all her clothes on
by Ali Ximines
I often think of the summers I spent with the lavender-haired girl by the side of the community pool - too afraid of what the town would think of me if I jumped in, but too mesmerized by her blue-green eyes to go home.
It shouldn’t have been a big deal, really, for an innocent swim was hardly cause for a scandal. But the truth of the matter was, the lavender-haired girl in the pool…well, she had all her clothes on.
"It was invigorating, she declared - and because of my cowardice, I had to take her word for it."
You see, she always jumped in that way…fully dressed, sneakers and all. Said it felt better when the water made your clothes cling, air-tight, to your skin. It was invigorating, she declared - and because of my cowardice, I had to take her word for it.
Because while the experience was ever-so-tempting, it just wasn’t done. And so I returned, day after sweltering summer day, denying myself the luxury of a sunlight swim with her, all in the name of maintaining appearances.
I could have slapped myself.
As a result, the only opportunity I had to let go of the boundaries that persistently reared in my head every day was during the cover of night. We’d sneak into the pool almost every evening and swim together: two trespassing fish with cotton scales.
And when her hands traced a path down to my waist on one particularly humid evening, I could pretend that the shiver traveling down my spine was caused by my damp clothing - not the sight of the moonlight reflecting in her blue-green eyes.
It’s quite funny, really, the way I couldn’t remember what I ate for dinner last night if you pressed a pistol to my temple, but I can recall every second I spent with her in vivid detail, simply by closing my eyes.
There will always be the ghost of her lips on mine, a tentative exploration that we could only undergo in the dark, echoes of her whispers in my ears, full of words that made me shiver even when we were dry.
Those very words filled my ears every afternoon, when a subtle shake of my head was all I could answer to the unspoken but persistent invitation those eyes offered me from the pool - never demanding for me to join her, but making it clear that the choice was mine.
This afternoon, hands that don’t feel like my own tug at the hem of my shirt, begging me to tear my gaze away from her, to stop admiring how perfectly that lavender hair compliments the bright blue of the pool, to escape to the locker room and change into a swimsuit, to remain ordinary for one more day.
She’s floating on her back now, an otter in denim overalls and a Hayley Kiyoko t-shirt. I stand up from the pool chair, forcing myself to finally leave, but aquamarine eyes meet mine, and my legs betray me, refusing to take another step away from her.
We stare at each other for a moment, her steady gaze never wavering, asking a question that I’m afraid to answer…it’s much too long, really, considering the vantage point the pastor’s daughter has from the top of the diving board - but that one look is enough to crumble my defenses.
I don’t want to say no to myself anymore.
And I know what the pastor himself thinks about the shade of her hair, the clothes she wears, the opinions she freely shares, the way her parents are prone to leaving her by herself for days at a time, the unconventionality that makes her so magnetic.
But the pastor doesn’t know the girl in the pool.
The pastor hasn’t spent any time with the girl in the pool.
The pastor hasn’t heard the gentle tingle of her laugh, hasn’t seen the tender way she feeds the birds in the park, hasn’t spent hours watching her sing while braiding that hair.
I know the girl in the pool has all her clothes on.
And I love her all the same.
I don’t go to the locker room. I don’t change into my pale-peach swimsuit.
I stand, walk a few paces back, and do a running jump into the water.
There’s a colossal splash before I sink to the bottom of the pool, knowing very well that the whole town saw me, and hoping that they did.
There I sit, one leg over the other, picture-perfect blonde hair hovering above my head. My heart pounds twice before I open my eyes, and…there she is.
She giggles, and although I can’t hear her under the water, the sight of it puts a warm glow in my chest.
We lean forward until our foreheads touch, and my eyelids flutter closed in contentment.
The summer is almost over, but we’ve only just begun.