Gin and grapefruit juice, with extra lime, on the front porch at sunset after too many Zoom calls and too many problems with no answers. “It’s not the safest choice,” he says after we have all but decided to send the kids back to school in person. “We have to acknowledge that.”
I almost always make the safest choice.
At the pool last week – masked when we arrive for our reserved time to swim, keeping a constant eye out for people coming too close as the kids do handstands and flips – my mom touches my arm and points under water. “What is that?” she asks. I glance, and at first think it is the rock we’ve been using as a dive toy. We thought it had gone missing, which was embarrassing, because we probably shouldn’t have brought a rock to the pool in the first place, and now someone was going to stub their toe on it. I duck my head under to be sure it’s the rock, but it’s not, it’s a foot. A very small, very still foot. Two of them, actually, attached to a very small, very still body on the bottom of the pool.
And then I realize that no one but me seems to know that she – I decide immediately it’s a she, maybe 3 years old – is there. For a split second I wonder why no one seems to be missing a child, , but then adrenaline takes over and I am diving down to get her, realizing on the way down that when I bring her up she will not likely breathe again.
When I get to the bottom, and swim over her small lifeless feet to grab under her arms to lift her up, I discover that she does not have a head. This information takes some time to sink in, and my brain first tries to convince me that I have stumbled onto some gruesome crime, that things are even worse than I had feared, before I realize it is a mannequin. There never was a head, never life in those still, quiet feet.
I drag the body – plastic, not flesh – by the arm, deposit it on the edge of the pool, and look up toward the lifeguards, who seem unconcerned about the situation. One of them comes over to collect the mannequin, with just a glance toward me, and I gather that I have somehow interrupted some kind of training exercise. (I feel slightly guilty about this for awhile, until I decide that planting a child-size mannequin at the bottom of a pool full of unsuspecting people is a terrible idea.)
I have to sit down for a moment, then, to catch my breath; the dive to the bottom of the pool wasn’t long, barely five feet, but it takes a long time before my heart starts pounding.