“I’m so glad you’re home.”
Granny squeezed my hand. We were laying on towels out at the end of a borrowed dock. The sun was sinking towards the trees at the end of the lake. The water treatment plant for the neighboring city stood out across the water. It was turreted like a castle and the bricks glowed in the silky clouds.
We had been swimming. When I was a little tyke and she was a lifeguard, she taught me to swim. The water had been clear blue and sparkling, then. The smell of chlorine was in everything and I had coughed and spluttered until I learned to breath and let the water hold me.
The water was murky now, with things decaying and coming to life in it’s ripples.
She was talking mostly. One of my aunts, her adopted daughter, was coming to visit. My cousin, who had run away to California and had accidentally gotten a girlfriend pregnant. They had carried the baby to term and were getting married soon.
She wasn’t too happy with him.
She got on to the topic of outside events. Her voice was disgusted and a little angry. But quiet. Everything was quiet here.
“To think of them criticizing Israel, when those people put their women and children deliberately into danger, so they’ll get killed and and they can whip up public opinion against the Israelis.”
The haze in the clouds was inside my head too. Images from Persepolis flitted past. The Iranian army had sent children out to clear minefields- clear them by stumbling across all the mines and detonating them.
They had put up little booths in honor of the virgin martyrs thus created to whip up public opinion against the Iraqis.
“The Palestinians deliberately fire from civilian areas, and the Israelis defend themselves! They have to!”
“Well.” I said drowsily. “Maybe people think that those children don’t deserve to die just because their parents are weird. Maybe that’s the objection.”
“It’s the women too!” she put in.
“Uuuu- the women too, don’t deserve to be shot, just because their leaders put them in danger.”
“They just don’t think of their women as anymore than animals!” she shakes her head.
Animals- because they think it’s ok if they’re shot for the greater good? If you, too, think it’s ok for them to be shot for the greater good… what…?
The conversation rolls away into the lake. Evil Obama. Immigrants.
“They send their children over here and Obama decides to spend all our money on that. It’s going to be the end of us!”
The ripples run under the dock. Their sunward sides are living gold. Their dark sides are deep brown darkness.
“Everything ends eventually. If we knew for sure it would ruin us, why not go out doing… something worth while?”
“Well, they should send them back. What do they have here? No parents to raise them… no…”
“Some of those countries are riddled with violence. Guerrilla wars and the drug cartels… Send them back and they’ll end up dead.”
“Well, it would be better than them growing up without being raised right!”
I look over at her. Her white hair and bikini and the light from the water rippling across the under belly of the trees overhead. I wonder if the world is real. If I really did just hear her say that.
“Says the one not in danger of being shot!”
The best response I could think of on the fly.
There’s a pause, barely noticeable. The breath between the verse and the chorus.
“It’s like getting old.””she tells me. “It not that it happens, so much as not being able to do stuff.”
I wonder how that’s related. Because… dying isn’t as bad as not being able to perform?
My sister stopped hanging out with Granny because Granny competed with everything she said. And then, without telling her, left her out of a trip they had planned together and took someone else instead- because she was afraid my sister wouldn’t be able to hike as much as she could.
My aunt is only a few years older than me. Her birth mother shut her and her brother in a room and stopped the windows with rugs, hoping that they would sleep all the time and not bother her. Her first adoptive family had broken her arm and left the two of them standing barefoot in the snow til they got frostbite.
Better for them to be shot?
I wonder if Granny hears the things she says.
Did she always talk like this? Is it new? There were so many things I didn’t notice before- did I just not notice?
She’s onto another topic.
“I can’t do those dolphin dives any more. You know, the one’s where you go over backwards and come up facing the direction you came from? I’ve been doing those since I was twelve, like they were nothing! But ever since I crashed my bike, I haven’t been able to do them…”
She’s getting old, after all this. She gets worried sitting alone in her house and calls my mom. When Granpa was alive, she had an unused pump organ, covered with medals and trophies. Running, swimming, triathlons.
Something’s creeping up on her now that she can’t get away from by running. Can’t out swim.
I trail my hand in the water. Water doesn’t frighten me anymore, clean, dirty , muddy or chlorinated. It holds you up. It’s your friend.
I am frightened of amoebas. Certain ones. If you swallow them, your body takes them apart, finds the pieces it can use and discards the rest. If you choke on the water- if it goes up your nose- it’s a different story. Safe inside the walls of your skull, your body can’t tell the difference between what’s you and what’s not you. It has no defenses.
They begin to eat your mind.
When they’re finished, you’re gone.
It’s the risk you take, swimming out here in the unprocessed water.