August in Florida
Outside, people crowd around water. Heat, the bright aqua of water, smell of chlorine and sun lotion. Coconut, spice. Young girls with slender hips, high breasts. Mincing, they walk barefoot over the burning concrete. Ankle bracelets. Hairless women, hairy men. Some men look vaguely female–lack body hair, possess slender torso, a feminine grace. They practice diving off the high platform, catapulting through the air like minor gods.
Spindly little children, bowlegged, one girl like a large walking doll, Wedgewood eyes, white skin, hair almost white, but so fierce. She puts her face in the water, proud of herself, comes up spitting, does it over and over. This girl’s mother, slim, pale body like a teenager’s, but her face red and sun-aged, enormous Southern twang. A former cheerleader, rural Georgia or Alabama. Lying on the blistering concrete, eyes closed, listening to the sounds of laughter and splashing. My sore back, the heat melting the ache away.
On the towel closest to me, a young girl, pretty, bleached blonde hair with dark roots showing, golden-brown string bikini that matches her skin, her perfect feet. Sudden thunder, the pool closed, into the locker rooms for 20 minutes. Live oaks, huge spread branches like arms reaching into the sky. The arms are shading, watchful. The oaks are like sentinels. The moss hangs like underarm hair. Young boys, thick and awkward, walk stiff-legged. They turn dark reddish-brown, but look silly next to the black kids. Tall, skinny black boy with red hair, a crew cut. His mama, a large woman in bright blue tank suit and neon orange shorts, matching neon bathing cap. Her earrings graze the sides of her neck. She isn’t ready to leave yet. He watches the girls, pretending not to.
Over there, a skinny, burnt woman with bad teeth, yet her daughters are so lovely, so young and fair and smooth. How did she produce them? A hippie girl with a blonde baby boy, crooning one minute, yelling the next, she holds him on her hip, sways in the sun. More and more women look like those prehistoric clay fertility figurines, heavy hanging breasts, stomach overlapping their thighs. I lie still and watch, lazy with the heat, my own weight.