by: Patrick Gill
“Any floating object displaces it own weight of fluid.” — Archimedes of Syracuse
His body fell. We could say he jumped; he did land feet first from his place on the chain link perimeter of the pool deck. But a jump implies more intention and grace. Adler managed an awkward footing after a slight knock-knee step one-two breathe-pause. Shaggy jeans clung in strange places of his matchstick legs, the hood of his sweatshirt swallowed his anything neck up. He rolled back and his eyes again were dusted by the pale cobalt sky. The evergreen spires, always encircling, reoriented his vision’s gravity. He wasn’t much good at hopping fences. It was a skill belonging to the dangerous and adventurous, he believed. Others or himself did not see Adler as either of these things. It was an uncomfortable sight and experience, hopping the fence. No matter what though it was done.
Turning back, he saw his book bag slung over one of the points of the chain link. He shook it up, off the fence’s crown. His navy and white striped towel almost shimmed free. He punched it back in so hard it tussled his hair and flung the cords of his hooded sweatshirt. Adler didn’t have an athletic bag. Adler wasn’t an athletic guy. He wasn’t any anything guy. That didn’t bother him. He walked the pool deck to the pool cover rollers.
Adler was clumsy bodied. His gait was a rubber jointed cartoon roll; one that didn’t do well with missteps, but had quite a few. Narrow and long faced, his ears sagged lower than the shaggy wings of his badly dyed brown-black hair. He dyed it at the beginning of this Winter, wanting for change. After his girlfriend dyed it, he thought it looked like shit. In his words, “Literally, Brisa, my hair looks like shit.” They both knew his tender head would be too cold if shaved, and he couldn’t cover it up with woolen beanies either because too many people in the past had laughed saying he looked like a giant gangly cock. He was just waiting for his hair to grow out. Brisa didn’t mind what it looked like; it was his heart she was after. And Adler was happy enough, as long as Brisa still kissed him and still held his hand.
Adler’s belly, low-hanging and soft, was an unshrinking pouch that threw the perfect vertical line of his form. His limbs aped his face, also long and knobbed by odd knees and elbows similar to his sculpted Aquiline nose. He had the frame of a someone who would be book smart. But his brain leaked figures, and his mouth spat phrases and facts to fast for them to really find a place in his mind. That is why, by and large, he didn’t like speaking. He thought everything he said hit the conversation like a non-sequitor. It wasn’t like he wasn’t friendly, wasn’t well liked. His quiet nature was well appreciated, and he could at times make people laugh. Sometimes that was unintentional. In truth he most accurately resembled in body and temperament a felled lodgepole pine bleached by the sun and sea wind. Though that seems like a complete insult, it does imply a buoyancy, and sharpness if put in the hands of a skilled craver.
Though he did not know exactly how to roll up the pool covers, and clumsy as his hands were, he cranked the cracked sapphire sheet into a lopsided cylinder. Easy enough. His sweatshirt sunk through the air. Then with small grunts and flails his t-shirt was shook up and off. His pants were peeled off until the dropped. Sky blue briefs was how he was going to greet the cold. He pulled from his book bag a pair of goggles bought for him by Mr. Hume. He believed his father wanted him to be a swimmer, there was no disappointment that he wasn’t. He believed his father wanted for them to share the water. He put the goggles round his neck , the elastic loosely slapped his chest.
Chlorine thick steam did not rise from the quieting plane. In an effort to cut costs, to go green-what have you, the Eureka City Schools opted to not heat the pool for their Winter Break. Adler knew this because his father sat on the school board. Jasper Hume was a professor at Humboldt State as well, well-respected for his long tenure in the Marine Biology Department. Adler loved his dad. He believed could never be as good a man as his dad. Mr. Hume was adept at communication, able in erudite eloquence to educate and expound well-bundled concepts. He was able to plum the depths, to see what was in the eyes of what churned midnight depths. The man’s white haired and rocky knuckles were the perfect extension of his strong and snow downed forearms. Both were continually bare. He had worked, understood work. There was a physicality to him not present in most other intellectuals. Adler believed he could never be like him.
His entrance to the bracing water sounded off like the shot of a pistol. Bubbling to the surface, he bellowed high and shook his neck up. Acclimation would take time; movement was required. He knew to keep moving; it was too shallow in his half of the lane pool to tread water so he mimicked the motions. He learned to keep moving, to tread water, when he was a little kid and his father used to take him out on small research assignments. He would jump off the boat’s deck as it was anchored. He learned to swim at sea; the cold kept him alert. His father watched with pride. Adler’s head was buried in his hair and the sea. That morning, the pool was not as dark, and only a shade warmer than the sea.
Adler snapped on his goggles. He squared himself to one of the slick black tile lines at the bottom of the pool. His body and the water had reached an agreement of temperature. He quickly peeled off of the wall into the length of the pool. Head down he swam arm over arm, with paced fury. He knew he would be there for a long time. The water pressed into his sides, he shot through. With the first few laps he would fumble a touch of the wall, then glance off of it, never learning a flip turn and fearing what learning now would entail. Within the next few laps he was able to accurately judge the edge. Adler understood that the beats and rises of his strokes were not harmonious, not a speedy or efficient rhythm. He worked in his ways regardless. He rarely faltered from the slick black line beneath. His speed waivered, climbed and fell, climbed. He worked in his ways, in his own rhythm, in his own time. With this came, sloshing through his ear, the sound of other voices and a blue melody. The sand voice of his father, the coo of a settling tide. He heard sounds of a settling forest, his feet crunching through dunn and duff. He was staying afloat, he could manage, he could persist. After the constant motion of a half hour he began to see the things below the surface. He saw Brisa, with auburn hair unfurling, unwinding, curving shadows 9 feet deep. She moved like a current, but with a warmth unknown to the shores that far north. Their was a heavieness, but he felt his body withstanding. The water felt clean, he felt able. He felt like his shape and form was complemented by the water; it held his body completely, and he could hold his body up. He looked down. He looked down into the eye of what churns the deep. The water rushed over him, rushed below him.
An hour passed. Motion slowed to a halt. Adler hooked his shoulders on the lip of the pool. The wind licked them, shivered his neck. The goggles fell to his neck, he looked up to alleviate pressure on his back. Two eagles. He saw their blackened forms cut their braided course, his murky perspective made their shape slide lopsided, one wing a strange knob, then to unfurl in manifold slender feathers.
He smiled to the birds as they blinked out of vision, out of sight, into the cobalt.
He released grip on the edge and floated on his back, for a moment, his face was overtaken by a wide and toothy crescent. Sighs of laughter rolled up. A quiet discovery was made and Adler was overtaken by the bellowing and gorgeous consequences. He rose to the pool deck with the strength of his wiry arms, somehow undaunted by the labor they had performed. He kept the towel in his book bag, as well as his shirt and sweatshirt. He put on his shoes. He got over the fence in some strange grace; his footing was less strange. Adler walked the streets home, sopping wet, like a man who has found what was never known to be lost.
Patrick Gill is the Co-Creator of In Our Words, as well as the Co-Founder and Host of the queer reading series All The Writers I Know. He is a poet, essayist, short story writer and occasional performer. Patrick writes the column “B*tch, I’m Miley Cyrus” for HEAVEMedia, is an alumnus of DePaul, has developed LGBTQ-centered anti-bullying curricula for CPS schools and is currently working on LGBTQ friendly children’s books. Patrick is doing so in order to be cute and endearing once again. He is a semi-professional word-hustler and a burrito hunter. His mother thinks everything he is doing is a fun thing to do.