While I don’t have a washer, dryer, car, pinky ring, or even Gucci slides, I do technically have a pool. Well, as my sister once said about the three-feet-deep rectangle at some Deliverance-ass motor inn, it’s the philosophical concept of a pool—concave concrete filled with water. In the literal sense, is it “mine?” I share it with my surrounding neighbors if you want to get technical. Is it safe to swim in? Being that I live in a city that has semi-annual water advisories for brain-eating amoebas, I’m going to go out on a limb and guess not.
True to form, I accepted its existence as a renting point without asking my property manager to show it to me. It does, after all, require a trip down a foot-wide rock-covered alley that’s evidently home to rogue opossums. After seeing the high ceilings and cave of a back bedroom, I didn’t feel like cutting myself on the chain link fence to be wooed with an amenity I never even thought to ask for.
A few weeks into moving in, I eventually wandered around back, most likely with the intent of taking some self-important self-timed selfies while wearing my new nothing,nowhere. fill-in-the-blank. Needless to say, I wasn’t about to blow up the giant flamingo and go paddling through the blue lagoon.
The first problem is that it isn’t really blue at all; more of a green-gray peppered with dead leaves that still manage to infiltrate the filtration system despite it being in full few of the day star. A ripple runs through it just every minute or so, leaving the debris to sink to a central pile at the bottom. Upon discovery, I was about ready to strap on my mermaid tale and journey down to the gateway to hell, leaving my memory preserved in the snap of my camera perched on the cleaning net rusted to the brick wall.
Thursday had discovered her new favorite backdrop as fall grew into winter, and winter into waning spring.
The unofficial start of summer would probably beg the use of a more functional backyard, but this past weekend, I was more phased by my glaring lack of pool-side loungewear. I dug through the depths of my underwear draw trying to find any needles in the haystack. Lace bralette with roses over the nipples? No. Panties with more straps than a Six Flags ride? No. Ex’s giant Lamb of God t-shirt from 2009? Definitely not.
Eventually, I just had to settle for a too-small leopard bikini top circa Target 2014 and black off-brand Soffes. The collage was capped off with a red-rose dotted snapback/holy Deathfest relic. Oh, and some disintegrating cowboy boots (yano, from the Rob Zombie years). Despite the mismatch of one broken heel, I came out the other side of the alley with no more than a single scratch across the back of my ribs and a wide-eyed glimpse from a stray tabby peering from the cracks in the adjacent shed.
The only lawn chair looked like it could quite possibly be the ground zero of hepatitis along the Gulf Coast, but preparedness was in my second nature at nine months into my lease. I kicked a few leaves across the bumpy concrete to clear a spot for my blanket loosely folded in half—
my only beach towel having been a casualty of a glass/hammer photo op. The fleece matted from the sweat of my bone-colored skin, reflecting sunlight like the iridescent part of pigeon.
I sat halfway up expecting to see one of the litany of feral friends, but, instead, it was my familiar, Lil Floof, galloping towards me.
“Stoop kid finally left his stoop!” I called out in my cat-induced falsetto.
He kneaded his head into my boot before dramatically falling to the ground, hellbent on teaching me a thing or two about the lounge life while blissfully unaware of the twig caught in the fan of his tail. I took notes as my faded black rats nest fell wild.
I don’t know what kind of spell he cast on me, but I immediately fell into a fever dream soundtracked by the dark ambient playlist blaring by my ear and the dull freight train roaring in the distance. My only pair of sunglasses long broken, I stayed shuttered tight until my cat eyes beat like bat wings. I can’t conclusively tell you what occurred during this spirit journey, but I do know the nightmare started when I woke up.
“Oh, look at that cutie! I don’t think I’ve ever seen him before.”
A middle-aged woman stood beaming over me, most definitely referring to my Floof. He had made his way to the other side of the pool. With his front paws draped over the side for balance, he lapped up the water, clearly taking the presence of company as an opportunity to pass himself off like the poor impoverished orphan boy in the shed. Mind you, he hadn’t touched his glass of Perrier all morning.
“Floof, bud, stop! Stop it!”
He looked up at me doe eyed for a moment before immediately returning to his task at hand.
“He is such a cutie,” the woman kept going on despite my grave concern of gray lagoon becoming my cat’s personal watering hole.
I leaped up from my blanket, running on my tiptoes around the hot perimeter before lifting him up from his litty-bitty kitty pitties and dropping him a few feet closer to safety. He squealed but continued to look longingly into the water as he waited for me to let my guard down once more.
“Oh gosh, I was really hoping it would look better than this,” she said with equally longing of looks. Havaianas on and hands on hips, my presumed neighbor and definitive Midwestern transplant let ’em have it.
“I was on the phone with that management office everyday last summer. Seems like they can never keep the filter running for more than two, three days at a time. I tried putting this guy in,” she said kicking the tangled garden house strewn off to the side.
“But no dice, huh?” My arms hung over the dancing skeletons on my sternum.
“Ohhh, nooo.” Her head shook but her accent didn’t waver. “And to think it’s Memorial Day Weekend!”
We bowed over our reflecting pond. Her attempt at diluting the Erin Brockovich sludge suit had just made it look like even more of a clogged toilet. In my peripheral vision I saw a paw lowering to half-mast.
“FLOOF!” I shouted without even turning my head.
He backed away coyly. Meanwhile, I slowly encroached back on my makeshift towel territory. I glowed a little too hard next to homegirl’s freckled tan that was baked-in like apple pie. Fortunately, she got the cue, shambling and rambling on an “okie dokie,” “oh darn,” “such is life” soapbox.
Nevertheless, I only lasted a little longer in the sun.
“How do people do this for an entire season?” I asked Floof with my wet blanket rolled under my arm.
He followed me through the alley and back to the back bedroom waiting cold and dark, my cheeks and chest serving as the first addition of pink.
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