Sunday, April 30, 2017

Who Me, Bitter?


“Are you bitter?”
I laugh, slightly embarrassed, slightly amused. Is it that obvious? How the hell did the conversation go from casual pool post laps chit chat to my deepest darkest psychological insecurities?

The chat had begun innocuously enough. “Is that a new suit?” Handsome Swimmer Man had asked.
“Nope, just one that’s been resurrected. I haven’t had a chance to get online to check out that site you told me about last week.”
He had nodded, shrugging, “Yeah….”
“I mean, the time gets away from me, you know? What with all these different jobs I’m juggling.”
“How many jobs do you have?”
“Three….four…depends on how you count them up…”
He shakes his head, “What do you do?”
“I teach writing….”
“You teach Montessori?”
Where the hell did he get that? I blame water in the ears. “No, I teach college level. At a couple of universities. Mostly grad students.”
“Cool, where?”
I feel a little under the gun at this point. Why is he interrogating me so? I mean, it’s a lot of questions, right? I’m game though, mostly cuz of his eyelashes.
“WWU….FFU….”
“My wife got her MBA at FFU.”
“Ah….” Suddenly I know a lot about him. An MBA wife. From FFU. She’s businessy and crisp. “What kind of work do you do?” I ask him.
He sighs, lowly. “Software….” Then something I don’t understand.
“Computers?”
“Yes.”
“I know only how to use computers, not how they work,” I joke.
“Your tool is only as good as the person using it.”

It sounds like he’s said this a zillion times. I just grin. Feeling a little chilly, I stretch my leg up onto the deck lean my head toward my knee.
“So, if you teach writing you must be a writer,” he asserts, staring me down.
“Yes….”
“What do you write?”
“Novels, short stories.”
“Under what pseudonym?”
I wonder why he thinks I’d write under another name? He’s just after that question people always ask when they find out you’re a writer: Are you published? And this is where the bitterness shows through I guess. Cuz I bristle at this query. Why must I be published? Why must I have a broad readership? Why don’t I? I’m such a failure.
Blah blah blah…..

And so, yes, I am bitter and I tell him so. With a teasing tone, of course. Hell, I don’t even know him, right?
“You’re bitter, really?” he asks.
“Yup,” I laugh.
“Really?”
“No…well…yeah….well…..” I hesitate.
He jumps in, “I’m bitter too!” he exclaims.
“You are?”
“Yeah!”
“For me?”
“Sure, why not?” he grins.

“Are you a writer too?” I ask. “Is that why you know that bitter taste?”
He chuckles. “No, I’m not a writer. Maybe I should take one of your classes.”
“Uh….well, you’d have to be a student.”
He shrugs, “True….”
“I do have private clients….” Why did I mention this?

“What kind of novels do you write?” he asks.
“I’m working on a novel about an artist, one of the later Surrealists, and his three muses.”
“Who? Breton?”
Damn, he knows Breton? How did he read my mind? This was getting to be a surreal poolside chat.
“Yes…” I answer, "but actually I just made most of it up…”
“Did Breton have 3 muses?” he ignores my assertion round the imaginative narrative.
“I have no idea,” I laugh. “It’s fiction.”
“Ah, of course,” he nods.

I can tell he’d keep talking if I did, and now I really was getting cold. “I have to get out,” I say, “getting cold.”
“Oh, yeah…sure…I’d love to read your novel.”
I laugh. “If I finish it, I’ll send it to you.”
He starts to call out his email address as I climb out of the pool, shivering now. I’ll never remember it and tell him so.

“That’s okay,” he nods.

He dives back underwater, falls into his smooth rhythm like he’d never been the interrogator of an unpublished bitter writer.
Yet am I really I bitter? Oh, sure sometimes. Who wouldn’t be? But most of the time, I don’t care. Esp. when I’m actually writing. Like right now. No bitterness in sight. Just words and more words and stories and dialogue and yes, the pool…..my first love and inspiration….

Monday, April 24, 2017

I'm So Small!

“He chose your lane cuz you’re a really good swimmer so when he gets into trouble you can haul his sorry ass out.” Sandy shakes her head in swimmer sympathy as DL and I crack up. I want to say that I wouldn’t haul his ass out, no matter how much trouble he was in. He was just too gross. I’d been telling Sandy and DL about the ‘splash sandwich’ that I’d had to endure at the Oakland Y for, fortunately, only a short while.
When I spied him lurking on deck, standing in front of My Lane, his blobby white belly spilling out over his too small blue Speedo, I prayed silently to myself that he wouldn’t choose my lane.

Of course he did.
They always do. Why is that? I think Sandy is being generous in giving them that much of a critical thinking future brain. But I like it that she assumes that I’m a ‘good swimmer’---I don’t think she’s ever seen me swim!
No, I think they choose me cuz I’m small and easy to push around. When they splash in, their massive waves bounce me into the lane line, I gulp large quantities of water or hafta hold my breath when I pass them. It’s hard!
So, tonight, when Gross Belly Man splashed in with his bright yellow Zoomers, I cringed. Why me?
And I know why.
I’m small.
Most of the time I like being small. But this week, for instance, on the most crowded BART since Communist China bus rides, my smallness was a drawback. I was immediately smashed under some hipster’s armpit who was completely oblivious that I was even there with his earbuds in and his smelly flannel shirt.
I had a minor panic attack and was looking for an escape when a nice young woman offered to share the ‘senior seat’—why was she there in the first place? “OH that’s so nice of you!” I had said. “I can just sit on your lap!” She laughed softly, her seatmate moved over too and I perched on the arm of the seat for the 10 minute ride to West Oakland before I climbed out.
I couldn’t do it.
Tonight, fortunately, a lane opened up and I was able to move out of the Splash Sandwich lane after only a few laps.
But even a few laps was too many. With Belly Over Speedo man. Sorry, but some guys should just not sport those suits!
Maybe I should bulk up. Eat more ice cream and Nation’s Pie. Expand my girth. This way I wouldn’t be such a target. Those large belly guys would see me, my wide round expanse filling the lane, and think, ‘Nah, she’s too big. I’ll go swim with someone else......smaller….”
Yet, I don’t think I could really achieve this kind of expansive deterrent. I could swim in the middle of the lane more—lane hog---yes, I do try for this. But I think, cuz I am small, this just isn’t enough to dissuade the large undesirables.
Maybe Sandy is right. I’m too good of a swimmer. So, next time, when I see a Big Belly Man lurking in front of my lane, ready to jump in, I’ll just start swimming really badly. I’ll splash a lot. Wave my arms in inefficient stroke motions. Generally create an image of floundering inexpertise.
That should dissuade them.
I’ll give it a try this week and let you know how it goes.

In the meantime, I’ll eat some pie and ice cream and cookies and M&Ms and….


Hey! I already do that!
Splash on!