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Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Mysteries of Swimming, Part II

Greenwich Village, 1958.

All of a sudden, Blu got it in her head that we had to go swimming. Me, Sky, Gordy, Ruby, her and even Ray and his girlfriend if they wanted. She said the Hamilton Fish Pool on East Houston and Pitt was our best bet. The U.S. Olympic team even used it for practice sessions before the 1952 Helsinki Games.

Usually nobody says yes to this kind of thing but it’s getting hot and we all decided, YES, we need to go swimming. Then the trouble started because Ray and Gordy have swim trunks and Sky found a pair but not every one of us chicklets has a bathing suit.

I don’t want to embarrass anybody, but a certain someone, not me or Blu, doesn’t have one. (Why would you if you don’t go swimming?)

I did say that none of us knows how to swim. Gordy set me straight on that, because he says he knows. Blu and Sky know, but they know almost everything. I (maybe) know a little, because my mother sometimes takes me to pool parties with the writers she knows from work. But Ruby, Ray and Jo-Jo never even saw a pool, except in pictures.

Blu didn’t care. She asked Ruby’s mom about a swimsuit, and then Ruby says her mother got into an argument with her dad. In the end my mother bought an extra suit for me at Macy’s *white polka-dots) so I could lend one out to Ruby. And this past Saturday, off we went. 


The Hamilton Fish pool was huge and crowded. We went in the shallow end and I felt kind of babyish, but it was so hot it felt really good to be in the water. Blu showed us a couple of swim strokes, but mostly we jumped around and splashed each other like the other kids. Blu had a strapless white bathing suit like Marilyn Monroe, and I was so jealous.

When Blu swam away for a while, Sky followed her. She dove under water, hair splayed out behind her like a mermaid. She ricocheted around the pool, dodging other swimmers and surfacing for a backstroke, then diving down again.

Ruby said she wished she had her notebook so she could write about Blu’s face, but that’s Ruby for you. She said it was like all the tough parts melted and she could see how the light bounced off Blu’s skin, like rain.


Maybe that’s what Blu means when she talks about the “mysteries of swimming.” She says it’s how you beat gravity, but it’s more than that for her. I think it just takes the store away, all the stuff she has to do there.

We stayed until about three and then got some ice cream cones on the way home (chocolate chip mint for me, chocolate for Gordy and of course, Ruby has to be different with raspberry swirl). Sky asked if we ever wanted to go again and Ray, Gordy and I said yes. Jo-Jo said maybe and Ruby said she wants to think about it. She’s kind of like a cat, not really in love with the water.

Being at the pool made me want to go to Jones Beach, see the waves and smell the salt in the air. Rubes seemed more interested in that idea than going back to the pool.

I did have a dream last night that I was out in middle of the ocean, but it was flat, without waves or even fish. Then I realized I was floating on top of a huge, black whale! And for no good reason, I leaned down to kiss him.

Then I bumped my head and woke up.

Then Ruby came over and we shared a blood orange. And she said, “who comes up with the names for these pools. Hamilton Fish?”

I think he was governor once. “But who gets to decide these things?” she said.

“I have no clue,” I said. But it would be a fun job. Wouldn’t it?

--Sophie Tanya