The A-Word

“I hafta admit that I played the Lotto yesterday.” Friendly Asian Water Walker leans over the lane line, confidential. PP grins, considers taking out her earplugs, but still had 200 yards of warm down to complete. If she takes them out now, and tries to reinsert them later, they’ll leak. So she opts for fuzzy hearing instead.

“My mother wasn’t very happy about it.” FAWW rolls her eyes. “I’m like, MOM! It was only a dollar! But my brother…..” She leans in closer to whisper to PP, “He well…. He has a gambling problem. It’s an issue. In Taiwan.”

She pauses, thinking.

PP wonders if she’s thinking whether she should be telling family secrets in the pool. Or maybe she’s just trying to figure out how to explain her brother’s issue with gambling?
So PP nods, “It’s part of the culture, isn’t it?” she offers.
FAWW nods slowly, considering. “Yeah, you know, you’re right. It is part of the culture. But my brother. Well, it’s just that he had money and friends they take advantage, you know?”

PP isn’t sure how this connects to the gambling issue, but she’s learned to be patient when collecting stories at the pool.

“He had friends that he leant money to, and then they said they were gonna pay him back but of course they never did. You have to watch out for that. For people that take advantage of you. Like I have this friend. Well, she was a friend,” FAWW chuckles softly, shaking her head, “and she doesn’t drive and so she wanted me to take her mother shopping and when I told her, ‘No, I can’t do that,’ well, she got really mad at me and called me the A Word.”

FAWW sighs.

PP wonders what the A Word is. Asshole? Is FAWW so polite that she can’t say this word? Or again, is her refusal to ‘swear’ part of the culture? PP remembers this from all the teaching she’s done with students from Asia, Taiwan in particular, that this sort of formal politeness, this hesitancy around speaking ‘profanity’ was part of their culture.

Today, in the pool, there’s something kinda sweet and refreshing about FAWW’s refusal to say the A-Word that PP can’t help but like.

But maybe she is simply upset that her former friend called her The A-Word cuz she refused to be taken advantage of, and so she couldn’t say it?

PP decides this last possibility might be the case since FAWW seems like she’s processing the whole loss of friendship situation. So, she suggests, “Yeah, well, that’s a lot to ask someone to do, take their mom to the store. I’m sure you have better things to do with your time. But mostly you don’t need ‘so called’ friends calling you The A-Word.” PP uses her nomenclature to build rapport in the pool.

“Yeah, you’re right. I don’t need that.” She frowns, then shakes her head. Then a relieved smile breaks out. “You’re right. I do have better things to do. Though I’m retired now. Are you retired?”

PP laughs. “I wish! I’ll never retire!”

FAWW joins in the giggle. “Really? I thought maybe you were retired.”

“Nah, I’m just on a break this week, so I’ve been able to swim in the middle of the day like this.’

She nods, “It’s nice, huh? To swim at this time.”
“Yeah, it sure is.” PP glances up the empty lane, the sun shimmering through the windows, sparkling tiny diamonds on the water, puffy white clouds glancing across the blue blue sky.
“But just cuz you’re retired, doesn’t mean that you should be carting around people’s mothers. I guess people just think you have all this time to run their errands for them, right?
“You’re single right?” FAWW asks.
“Yup. So, yeah, single people get taken advantage of too.”
She nods, taking this in. “No kids?”
“No, well, I have the 3 cats.”
She chuckles. “Oh, I love cats.”
“They’re my substitute family.”
“I can’t have them though. Allergic.” FAWW sniffles, then breaks into a grin. “Well, I better let you get back to your swimming. I talk a lot! You need to finish, right? You glide so effortlessly. I am always so jealous!” She laughs, shy now.

Later, in the parking lot, FAWW comments on PP’s fluffy pink sweater, “That’s cozy.” Touches it, leaving her hand a little too long on PP’s forearm?

Or is this PP’s imagination? That the question about her being ‘single’ in the pool before was nothing, not a come on or a checking her status sort of situation at all. But just part of the general dialogue around single retired women being taken advantage of?

Yet, PP had to admit that she would be flattered. If FAWW had a bit of a crush on her. Not that she’d do anything about it. FAWW was attractive and smart, but not really PP’s type.

PP unlocks the Geo as FAWW heads over to her plush grey Toyota, pops open the trunk and starts rummaging through its contents. Climbing into the Geo, PP plops down, sighing, unwrapping a granola bar, and watches in tired happiness as three puffy white clouds drift across the blue blue sky.


Anonymous said…
As always, beautifully written, compassionate and suspenseful. You are my literary hero. Thanks for writing and know that I am eagerly awaiting the next installment.

>^..^< Lauriecat
Cj said…
Thanks, Laurie Cat!

And you are my greatest inspiration--a writer needs an appreciative and splendorous audience! I couldn't keep writing if it weren't for you.


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