Sanctuary Pool

Her energy was soft and shy. As I sat on the edge of the deck, waiting for the lifeguards to put in the lane line, I watched her paddle toward me. Her black hijab covered her head and neck, her arms and legs were completely covered in long black fabric. It billowed around her in mellifluous magnificence. How did she swim, I wondered?
Yet she did. Just fine. Her hands paddling in quick dog paddles, her body floating flat behind her, legs kicking straight and true.
Stopping to rest at the wall, she raised her mirrored silver goggles off to rest on her forehead. Gave me a sweet smile.
I smiled back at her, then gave the lifeguard the thumbs up as he snapped the lane line into place. “How you doing tonight?” I asked her.
“Okay,” she murmured, her eyes gazing at me in softness before she pulled the goggles back over them.
“We can just split the lane, okay?” I suggested. “You can take that side and I’ll take this one.”
She nodded, then paddled off, her black fabric swimming costume floating around her in soft waves in the blue water.
I had wanted to delay her. For a moment. To ask her, really, how are you doing? Have you had any trouble the last two weeks after the election of the Racist Preacher of Hate who has vowed to send all of her kind back to where they came from. Or round them up and place them in internment camps. Or line them up and shoot them….
Did I make that last one up?
I think so, but this is the climate of hate and violence that has swept across the land since Trump’s election and his appointments of racist, white supremacists to his future cabinet.
What will become of her? I worried for her. I worried for my friends that had been victims of hate and violence: DL had been the victim of hate. A woman calling her a ‘fag’; DL’s supremely genius response of ‘Oh, honey you have it wrong, I’m a Lesbian’. And then, the woman spewing more ugliness at DL and no one surrounding DL did anything to stop it.

To me this is the most appalling and unconscionable aspect of the current violence that the Preacher of Hate has inspired. The hate of ‘others’ has always been there, but those that hated, that feared were ‘more cordial’ about it as one of my students labeled it. She told me of women, young Latinas who had been hit by hate crimes and abuse. A woman on BART. A woman walking down the street in Alameda.
And this is the Bay Area!
We like to think that we’re better than this. That this sort of hatred towards others that are different than us doesn’t exist here.
But it does.
And I am so upset and sorry for this.
As I swim next to this young woman tonight, each time passing her, her black scarves floating in wavy beauty under the water, I think how hard it must be for her now. How she must fear for her safety and those in her family in these horrid times.
I’m so glad, though, that tonight, she’s here. Safe in the waters of the Oakland Y’s pool. With her mirrored racing goggles. Her soft, strong energy.
And her smile that assured me, ‘I’m okay.’
I hope she is. I really do. If she could just keep swimming, here at the Downtown Oakland Y, and never get out of the pool, she’d be okay.
As long as I’m swimming next to her. I’d brain anyone with my fins who dared to harass her. I would hiss and spit at them. I would call for help.
I wouldn’t stand by and watch like those stunned? Fearful? Ashamed? people in DL’s experience.
At least I don’t think I would.


Anonymous said…
This blog is the very best that writing can accomplish. You have artfully mastered all the emotion of shock, rage, fear for others, courage and self doubt and empathy. All within the the beautiful imagery of veil billowing in the pool. Well done and very moving! ^..^<
Ruth Jameson said…
Yes, this is the best. Your sensitivity to our problems which have escalated in the past months will not go away, unless the new responsible party now elected will put this down as not acceptable. Hard to undo this kind of damage. We will all try in our own small way to be the best we can be towards all in our wonderful Country. Thank you Kitty purrs, and give this brave swimmer a smile for me the next time you see her.

Cj said…
Thank you for your kind words and appreciation here, Ruthie and Laurie. I really appreciate it! I wanted very much to write this story so glad that my feelings around it came through in such a way that you were moved. Yes, Laurie, this is what writing (or any art) is all about! Thanks for reading!
Cj said…
And, yes, Gilda, I will give her a smile for you! She is so courageous!

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