The house is owned by Carol, a woman spiceboy's cousin knows from living in Burma. Carol is tall, elegant, older. She goes about her business with the grace and ease of a woman who has seen many things, and who once hurried through them, but who has learned that it's so much more enjoyable to take her time.
I am still waiting to learn this.
Carol's house is nice enough, all tucked away in what looks to me like a run of the mill suburban neighborhood. But unlike the other houses, which tend to sit close to the road, unshaded and unadorned, this one sits back at the end of a rather long drive, nestled into a small hillside (I would have used "knoll" here, but it just doesn't seem like my word) and surrounded by all manner of trees, bushes, and shrubbery, thus secluding it from its neighbors, which are fairly close by.
The seasoned New Yorkers of the group call this the country.
The newbie New Yorker (me, in case you didn't know already), thinks that's a bit of an overstatement, but is pleased nonetheless to lift her face to the leafy sky, to feel the soft crunch of grass under her bare feet, to watch two butterflies playing just above the surface of the blue, blue pool.
The pool now: It is every little kid's fantasy--long and blue and deliciously rippled, and the little girl in me is dying to put on her suit and jump into the water, to scream, to yell, to splash and do somersaults and to push off of the cool, smooth tile sides with wrinkled water feet.
But it is clear from the others that adults do not do these things. And as I am just over a month away from turning 30, I suppose this qualifies me as an adult. And so I change into my suit then take a seat at the glass-topped table, nibbling on an almond and making polite conversation, taking care to trim such ungainly words as "like" and "you know" from my sentences, pacing my speech, slowing it down in an attempt to sound more mature and centered and thoughtful than I do in my normal everyday life. I am at least 12 years younger than everyone else at the table.
After awhile, I excuse myself, stand, and walk to the edge of the pool. I dip my toes in, and think long and hard about plunging straight in. Not a drive--just a big, messy, splashy, clumsy jump. But the ladies are moving about the pool deck, clad in various wraps and coverups and straw hats, discussing their recent trips to Burma, Singapore, and Ethiopia. I measure myself and my actions against theirs.
I think of my most recent trip: To Beaver County, Pennsylvania.
I want to be like these women; relaxed, graceful, comfortable, cultured. I want the lines in my face to tell a story someday. But it seems a most impossible task to me, for some reason. I also want to be 10 years old again, and playing in the tiny above ground pool in my parents' backyard back in Beaver County, Pennsylvania, surrounded by barking dogs and buzzing bees and the smell of hot dogs on the grill. I want all of these things at once--the past, the future, and the present, and I am so overwhelmed by choice and chance and possibility that for a moment, I wonder if I might burst into tears right here on the pool deck.
I climb down the ladder into the pool and paddle through its dappled sunny waters. I grab a raft and then discard it. I swim from the shallow end to the deep end one, two, three times. I make polite chit chat with the other pool occupants.
I bob up and down.
I tread water.
I do not do somersaults. Or a handstand. I do not even get the top of my head wet. I am acutely aware of this as I climb back out of the pool sometime later, towel off, take a seat. I am acutely aware of this for the rest of the evening as I hover on the outskirts of conversation, keeping my eyes on the pool. It is 20 x 40 in size--800 sq feet, someone calculated.
That's double the size of the apartment I share with my husband and my puppy.
When wine is served, I sip it. And when dinner is served, I eat it. I smile and nod and laugh occasionally, but I'm still watching the pool more than anything else. It is a day out of the city, a day I looked forward to all week long as I suffered under the florescent lights of my office. But I can't help feeling a little sad and maybe even a little resentful, like a little girl who has been grounded to the sidelines by a supervising adult.