Written by Laura L Mays Hoopes
At home, he collected his swimsuit and towel and started off to the municipal pool. It opened at 9:30 but the gate was locked. “It’s Christmas Day,” he thought. As he stood with his hand on the gate, a grey-haired woman shuffled out and unlocked it. He changed and left a basket of his street clothes with the old woman, who gave him a safety pin numbered 101 to match the space for the basket.
The pool was dark blue and the ceiling, light blue with tiny lights like distant stars. There was one porthole-shaped window at each end of the room. John swam laps, trying to be one with the water. He imagined his molecules dissolving into the pool. John felt privileged; usually there were ten or twelve other swimmers. Christmas present for me, quiet, empty pool.
As he began his twentieth lap, the lights went out. The portholes glowed. John heard a garbled announcement; he thought it meant he should leave, but he did not. He swam to the middle of the pool and lay on his back. He hung in the water with no effort. “This is what being dead must feel like,” he thought.
When he swam to the side and climbed out, no one was there to give him clothes, but he got them himself and left the key. He looked out the window and saw the bright green evergreen needles on the cedars next to the pool enclosure and breathed in their aroma. He noticed the individual blades of grass growing bravely between the flagstones. He thought the sky had never been so blue before. It shone with blueness, evenly over the whole hemispheric bowl he could see. He dressed, went back to the Silver Diner, ordered tea, and wrapped his hands around the hot cup. He shivered.
“Is anything the matter?” the waitress asked.
“No, I’m just glad to be alive,” John said.