by Audrey Gutierrez
The origin of the word pool is derived from Old English. Pol.
It means deep, still place in the river.
As someone who is often still and trying but failing to live a shallow existence of blinders and romance as provided by Tinder, social media influencers on Instagram, The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, and American work fulfillment,
I find this comforting.
Sometimes, I worry my love of pools originates from pressing the pool jets against my genitals. It’s how as an eight-year-old girl, I first discovered the fine art of el petit mort.
Dip. Dive. Drown. Drink.
Emerge. Remerge. Immerse.
Choke on the chlorine water.
Spit it out and continue being human.
At 6, my parents installed a pool in our backyard. A glorious watering hole of a humming pool cleaner I named Jimmy Shakes and wasps that found their deaths. Afraid of meeting the same fate as the wasps, I reluctantly learned to swim. My father didn’t toss me in. He dragged my skinny arms, then placed his large hands under my stomach to push me up. My mother watched from the sidelines.
“Pilar, look at you!” She exclaimed. “You’re a natural!”
11. Ophelia, Dustin Huffman in The Graduate, Jay Gatsby, Micheal Phelps, Narcissus, Cameron from Ferris Bueller, The Lady of the Lake.
Everyone wants to drown, to submerge themselves into the depths until things start to make sense.
12. At 9, my parents signed me up for a youth swim team full of lanky kids with stained green blonde hair and yellow teeth. My limbs were too stubby to be as powerful as the other children’s, but I was determined. But then there were cockroaches the size of my face learning to swim in the water too as I did backstrokes to the instructor’s yells of feigned enthusiastic encouragement. A cockroach floated in my mouth.
As a 9-year-old, I said it wasn’t the right fit.
13. I was short and slow, but Cuban.
“So I will grow into my swimming abilities eventually, right?” I asked.
My parents said no.
14. At 14, I jumped in with my Catholic uniform, a white polo and knee-length plaid skirt the color of puke-moss, still on. It was to save our miniature poodle. The French bulldog had pushed her in.
15. At 16, my boyfriend was in the pool, swimming next to me. I floated on a blow-up raft the shape of a banana. He grabbed my left boob and honked it, even though I was trying to read. I shoved his head underwater and distantly remembering the first time we had sex—too rough and ending in tears and bruises—considered drowning him.
16. At 18, I experienced my first heartbreak, floating for a week until the blue of the sky permanently stained the insides of my eyelids and my hands became so wrinkled, they fell off and turned to dust for the pool filter, Jimmy Shakes, to eat.
17. At 21, I kissed a boy in college. I inhaled his stubble. Coarse. The next day, I kissed a girl. I inhaled her watermelon lip gloss. Sticky.
The day after that, it was Saturday. I went home and stripped. I sat at the bottom of the pool, permanently handless, and wondered if my hair would get caught in the drain.
18. At 27, I won’t swim with anyone but myself. It’s too personal.
A sacred, selfish experience. Many call it self-care.
19. At 30, I found my father laying on his back in the kitchen. He had had his second stroke. I found the strength to bring his body into the pool, using my arm-stubs to loop around his armpits. I held him there in the silvery green-blue water, cradling him up so he too could see the sky.
20. The first heated swimming pool was built by the Romans. It was made by an eccentric, rich lord named Gavis Maecenas. A patron of the arts?
What was it like to own that first symbol of overindulgence and comfort?
What was it like to be the master of shallow depth?
About the Author
Audrey Gutierrez is a Cuban-American from Lafayette, Louisiana. She is a graduate of Lewis and Clark College. She has been an assistant teacher at Fir Acres Writing Workshop in Portland, Oregon and is currently teaching English in Spain. She has been published in CALYX Press and Artslandia Magazine.