I FLOATED in the ocean baths. The sun dipped closer to the shining horizon and brought me closer to the end of the day.
I knew then that it might be the last time I swam in that concrete pool.
Children and adults alike complained as they toweled themselves dry and gathered their things into their colourful beach bags.
It’d get cold soon but for now the water was still fine. Besides, She was still here with Him.
Maybe the two of them had noticed me floating in the baths, maybe they hadn’t.
If I left now, I would have to walk right by the two of them and that would trap me into a few minutes of conversation I couldn’t handle.
Even cautionary eye contact might have broken me. I didn’t know and I wasn’t going to find out. So I floated, letting myself bob with the gentle waves that rolled over the lip of the pool from the broiling ocean beyond it.
Beside me a man was swimming laps. I could hear his harsh breathing as he pumped his limbs and tore through the water like he was trying to race a torpedo.
I wondered why he was trying so hard? Maybe he had a race coming up? Maybe swimming was more important than I thought it was?
The only thing I knew for certain was that every few dozen seconds he would swim close enough to me to upset my leaf -in-a-puddle routine and send me bobbing furiously up and down.
While I covered from one of these rude swimmer-induced waves I sank in both senses of the word. My legs dipped below the surface of the water as the swimmer wave hit me. I started to sink.
I heard Her laugh at something He said and I let myself sink.
My head dipped below the water and the sound of Her laughter went away. It was swallowed up by the ocean. I closed my eyes, I never could stand opening my eyes underwater.
I sat at the bottom of the baths, no sight, no sounds but the strange long ambience of underwater. The feeling of the current moved around me. Maybe when I come back up they’ll be gone?
I came back up for air and found the two of them sitting where they had been before. The swimmer had left at least. Finished what felt like his 10-millionth lap and headed home to guzzle a protein shake with a side of fish flakes. T
hat’s why I like the baths. Every time a wave hits them they’re a little different. They might be a little cleaner, they might be a little nastier, more people, less people, a piece of seaweed you’d rather die than touch might surf its way inside and hug your foot.
That’s why I used to bring Her here. Now She apparently wanted to bring Him. The new guy. Mister Tall Dark and Handsome, probably, I hadn’t even seen him truthfully. I had just seen her show up with another person, hand in hand, and turned away, my cheeks turning red.
Speaking of, I was definitely sunburned. Oh well, aloe vera and cold showers will still be around tomorrow. Another wave hits the baths and the complaints have stopped.
Almost everyone has left for the night. The sun is so close to the horizon now you might think it was leaning in for an awkward first kiss.
Go on you coward, smooch the ocean, then the stragglers might leave and I can get out of here without having to let Her know I came here alone.
“Hey.” It was Her. The game was up, time to make like the hermit crabs and retreat into my shell.
“How’ve you been?” I turned to Her. She was lit up by the setting sun in radiant orange that made her glow like fire. Why did she have to still be so pretty?
I smiled and hoped that it reached my eyes, cause it sure didn’t feel like I was smiling. “I’ve been good, I didn’t realise you were here.”
“You’ve been looking at us every few minutes since we got here.”
My guts dropped and suddenly the water felt like it might freeze.
Something on my face must have shown that I wanted to say something but couldn’t find the words because she smiled and added.
“It’s all right, I know this is your spot. He just wanted to go for a swim, but I didn’t want to while you were still in here. He’s not so bad you know.”
Damn it, her smile was in her eyes. She was happy. She was so happy. It was good that she was happy. Maybe He wasn’t so bad after all. If He was making Her happy maybe it was time to let them swim.
“Right.” I stopped floating and set my feet to the bottom of the baths. “I was just about to hop out anyway.”
I pressed my hands onto the concrete lip of the baths and pulled myself from the water. I knew then that it might be the last time I swam in that concrete pool.
“I’ve been good too, by the way. You two look like you’re happy. You look like He makes you happy.”
“He does. I am.”
My smile still hurt, but at least it felt real now. I walked away and passed by Him. I only gave him a nod; he gave me one back.
As the sun finally worked up the courage and kissed the horizon I saw the two of them dive into the ocean baths just as another wave crashed over the side. It was all right, with all the waves that would come and go soon there’d be no trace of me left in that water.
That’s why I liked the baths anyway. They changed with every wave.