I hid in an empty town pool. I sat there at the bottom of the deep end, under the diving board, green with mildew. Not bright green, an acidic and putrid green, the color I associate with decay. The moon that glared down from the sky struck the blue tiles. The light hit me, finding me in the darkness I tried to create. The moon mocked me, sneering at my pathetic attempts to burrow under the plant growth that stifled the hard concrete.
When I had fallen to the bottom — fallen or jumped? — I had landed on top of something sharp. I tugged a Barbie doll out from under me. Her left arm was snapped off and she was naked and her feet had been chewed by small teeth. I couldn’t tell if the damage had been done by a toddler or a rodent. I had the urge to fling the gross plaything away, but my fingers tightened around her neck instead. I flinched when the wind blew chlorine into my nose. I held my breath for a moment, before continuing to allow the wind to blow in and out only through my mouth.
Earlier today I had reigned from atop my white wooden throne, lounging in my red bathing suit, red like the burn carefully hidden low on my hip, where my mother had put out her morning cigarette. Bodies crowded the hot grimy water, like animals drawn to a waterhole. I had become good at tuning out the shrieks and splashes, my attention focused on the chain-link gate that swung to admit newcomers from the parking lot. With a practiced, subtle eye I would size up and select any potential hunks, eyeing them casually from behind my aviators as they stripped down. They were the only reason I showed up for my eight-hour shifts. Minimum wage certainly wasn’t tantalizing enough.
A family was hosting a birthday party that afternoon. I had helped tie balloons to umbrellas, annoyed with the time it took away from sitting on my ass, my hip throbbing. A hot set of abs had just taken up residence near the steps when an annoying chorus of “Happy Birthday” cut through my enjoyment. Ice cream cake was being quickly slapped onto paper plates as several nine-year-old boys, most with their wet bathing suits hanging off their skinny waists, jostled each other. I tried hard to ignore the mom’s hassled smile and the boys’ awkward limbs. My mom’s smile had morphed over the years, from real to distant to deranged. I breathed through my mouth to avoid gagging over the strong, sickly sweet coconut suntan lotion.
My eyes fixed onto an indistinct blob on the bottom of the deep end, under the diving board. I squinted in the reflection of the light off the glistening water, my nose wrinkled with disgust, about to turn and find the elderly janitor who had apparently “cleaned” the pool that morning. I was startled by my quick heartbeat, which knocked against the glass walls that held my surroundings at bay. Panic shattered those walls, and then water broke over me. I wrapped my arms around her body, small but heavy. “Waterlogged,” a cynical but honest voice whispered. Desperate hands, my hands, those French manicured lovely hands that held steering wheels and took notes in biology and rolled a joint, pumped her chest, over the pink bikini top. I could feel her watching me, but I wouldn’t look into her eyes, their staring stopping my breathing. I hastily threw up new fragile walls but the screams of her mother found a chink in the glass and the walls broke down again. Hands pulled me back, parents grabbed children and hurried them to cars, but I kept on with compressions.
A slap stung me. Her mom’s wedding ring split my cheek and the red watered the meager grass. No heart beat in her tiny chest. I stood and walked out the chain fence. No one stopped me.
I went home and grabbed the gun from the drawer, glad now that I hadn’t convinced my mom to dump her ex-convict boyfriend. I didn’t stop in her room before I slammed the back door. No matter how bright and feverish her eyes were, she wouldn’t recognize me. I drove for a few hours, stopping to buy a soft pretzel at a gas station. It was the first time I had eaten since a few chips two nights ago, as I crunched loudly to overpower the sound of my mom shooting up in the next room. Finally, I made my way to my old neighborhood and I retraced the path down to the old pool. My feet didn’t know the way; I had always ridden my dad’s shoulders down there.
Now I scoff at how stupid I look with the Barbie doll straddling my chest. But what the hell? I hold the cold metal against my hip, until it stops throbbing, then lay it on my tongue. It tastes good in my mouth.
I pull the trigger.