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In the water, I flip around aimlessly like a happy seal, warming my face in the late afternoon light as the laughter of adults, and more distantly, children, floats over me.Pools, like people, can be both subject and object.
In both the painting and the film, the person who authored the splash never transcends it. Pools are naturally erotic, like the language we use to describe them—aquamarine, sapphire, azure, and cerulean—all the horny words for a blue you can’t quite hold onto.
They are also natural sites of tension (drowning, social exclusion, sunburn).
They are places where we reveal our bodies to each other in public anonymously, above and below water.
Pools were the first public spaces where it was socially acceptable to be somewhat undressed, and cinema, like the Esther Williams aquamusicals of the 1940s, normalized the female body in a tight maillot, bullet tits and all.
On my laptop, I examine a map of the city’s pools, tracing a line between the ones that form a jagged nautilus spiral towards my apartment.
I am compelled to do it the way billionaires seek Everest and, presumably, further billions.Nested in a leafy little enclave is Monarch Park, my third pool of the day after large and liminal Riverdale Park East and sunny, sweet Kiwanis.I fold my clothes into a mustard yellow locker that bears the warning , scratched in below.This wasn’t about discovering the biggest or best in the city.Rather, I was inclined to find a path in them, so that I could feel as if I were, dear lord, going somewhere.“He seemed to see, with a cartographer’s eye, that string of swimming pools, that quasi-subterranean stream that curved across the county.” There’s no good reason for Ned to do this, other than the fact that he wants to, and believes he can. My identity as a swimmer is as much defined by the pools, lakes, and swimmin’ holes I’ve swum as the ones I’ve encountered in art, film, and literature.Mostly, I just enjoy being in the water; the leisure, the coolness, and the distance from anything resembling work.“As badly as Sarah sometimes wanted to just grab Todd by the face and kiss him, to crawl onto his towel and blast away the pretense that they were just a couple of pals killing time together, she wanted just as badly to hold on to the innocent public life they’d made for themselves out in the sunshine with the other parents and children.” The adults watch as their respective children play at the far end of the pool, one of them with a shark fin strapped to her back.The “innocent public life” that Perrotta articulates is a rare form of peace that thrives at the public pool.The almost ekphrastic pleasure of reading about something set in or near a pool provides its own bone-dry satisfaction.“The Swimmer” was published in the July 18, 1964 issue of The New Yorker, 55 years before I decided that I too would swim home.