The humongous sneeze rang out from the locker room, echoing hilariously into the hot tub where PP and two other women sat relaxing. Opening their eyes wide in astonishment, they all shared a look before breaking into giggles.
“Someone’s allergic to something!” PP joked, as a Jovial Asian woman sitting across from her nodded while the third woman in the tub, one that PP usually engaged in random chit chat, just turned back to her concentrated water jet massage action. For a moment, PP wondered what was up with her. But JAW engaged her before she could explore.
“My husband,” JAW began, “He sneeze very loud too!” she giggled.
“Does he have allergies?” PP asked.
She nodded, “Yes, but I sneeze too. When I sneeze.....” she covered her mouth with her sturdy brown hand, “I am not so loud.”
PP nodded. “Yeah, me neither. In fact, I try to stifle the sneeze.”
“Stifle yes....” She thought for a moment. “I think my husband. He have very different personality. He much more loud. But me. I’m quiet. I....” She searched for the word.... “I....swallow my sneeze...”
PP nodded, loving this idea of ‘swallowing’ one’s sneeze. Almost like it was some kind of nourishment that you couldn’t let out. You had to keep it inside you. Not let it escape.
“Yeah, me too...” PP agreed. “Though it might be better to let it out.”
“Let it out. Yes. They say that.” she repeated, nodding.
“Though I sometimes wonder what the good of letting it out is,” PP mused aloud, thinking how she really had to work at not letting things out. It just got her into trouble. It was better to keep things inside. Swallowed up. Even though the prevailing psychobabble wisdom instructed otherwise.
“Women. We must keep things inside. This is our way,” JAW continued. “But I am changing. I let more out. Wonder that I could be so wise when I was young!” she laughed.
“Yeah,” PP searched for that cliché about youth being wasted on the young, but couldn’t retrieve it in time.
“I have a friend. She live in L.A. She live in a BIG house. 6 rooms. Her children are all grown but they still come to visit and when they do she cook she clean she is exhausted.”
“Yes. And so I tell her. You need to tell them. You will not cook for them. You will not clean for them. You must do for yourself.”
“But I bet that’s hard for her?” PP guessed, not having this experience herself of serving other people she didn’t really get it, but she heard a lot of women at the Y complain about this.
“Yes. It hard for her. Very hard.”
“Change is hard. I mean, old habits. They’re hard to change.”
”Old habits. Yes. That is true. But change is good. I changed!” She laughed proudly. “I no longer cook for my husband. He want to eat, he cook!”
PP laughed. “Good for you!”
“Yes. Good for me! And we moved from L.A. When I was in L.A. I couldn’t believe all the people. It so spread out. Where I live now. It’s so much smaller.”
”Where do you live?”
”Oh! I love Honolulu!” PP exclaimed. “It’s my fantasy place to live.”
”It is so nice. Very warm. The water is very warm. The air....” JAW sniffed the chlorinated air of the hot tub room and wrinkled her nose. “It smells so good.”
“Like flowers!” PP exclaimed. She loved the air in Hawaii. What was it about the air? The warmth? The scent? (It did smell sweet like flowers)
“Yes. Like flowers.” She repeated. PP began to notice that she would repeat all of PP’s comments. This seemed like a typical ESL conversation tactic. One that worked for PP. She liked it when whomever she was talking to agreed with her!
Was this shallow and superficial of her? she wondered. Not wanting any discord in her conversations? Wasn’t her teaching life all about ‘critical thinking’ and exploring other points of view.
And maybe this is why when PP was away from teaching, she just wanted to languish in agreeable waters. Not have the constant strife of always having to argue or justify her opinions.
Not that she had any opinions.
Well, unless you counted her ideas about swimming. Or writing. Or cats. Or politics. Or food. Or ice cream. Or....
“The air is so fresh!” JAW exclaimed, grinning as she moved to sit next to PP.
“Yes,” PP agreed. For it was true. Fresh air was in abundance. In Hawaii.
She only needed to get there and drink it in. Swallow it up. Let it nourish her.
When oh when will this happen? she thought to herself, suddenly feeling a little tickle in her nose. “Ahhhchooo!” she sneezed softly, but letting it out, not swallowing it.
JAW laughed. “You allergic too?”
JAW nodded, “Me too, to my husband!” she giggled, her eyes sparkling, as PP gulped in the chlorinated air nourished by the fertile womanly mirth.