It was a good day for sunglasses and screwdrivers. Davy, on the diving board, made a big show of it. Windmill motions with his hairy arms, his paunch bouncing with the spring of the board. He said, Watch this!
So my wife and I waited to see what Davy needed us to see. He never was without ways to remind us he was once an athlete.
That was when his wife, Carol, came out of the house and announced, Cocktails!
Carol, in a bikini, looked like something blind poets sing about. She was orange juice in the morning, brown liquor at night. Carol was a lot of fun.
I waded my way toward her. At the pool steps I looked over my shoulder at Davy, sitting at the end of the diving board like somebody had just pissed on his sandcastle. Pissed on it then stomped on it then put their cigarette out in it and laughed. As a humanist, I hate seeing grown men look like that. I like to think I have a big heart.
I said, Hey, sorry. Do your thing, man.
I also know something about diving and can appreciate good technique.
Davy pouted. Then he straightened up and toothpicked it into the pool, creating far too much splash for such a low-risk maneuver.
I wanted to shout, Cannonball! Front Pike! Jackknife! Be a swan! Round two! Show me something! But the truth is that guys like Davy never show you anything. I have never given a woman a foot rub, nor have I ever asked for one. Guys like Davy give out foot rubs like snacks at a nursery school.
I went inside for a drink, for some shade and the cool tile. Carol, at the kitchen counter, stirred the pitcher into swirling orange, almost yellow—she made them strong. She poured and I tried not to look at her chest, carried gracefully in a sea-green throwback top, tried not to think of her and me belly-to-belly while Davy sucked his thumb in the corner. I tried not to think of this because a midday buzz and women with wet hair lead me to easy arousal, and it’s hard to hide an erection in swim trunks. But I looked. I looked at the slight perspiration on her cleavage and subtle signs of soft flesh that signaled the waning days of her figure. Cracks in the mortar. Glory and destruction. I felt a thickening.
If I didn’t care about Davy, if my wife wasn’t right outside or wasn’t my wife, I would have stood there proud of my offering and let Carol decide what she wanted. I’m talking: I am in London. I have an appointment in Paris. Carol, would you be my Chunnel? Or perhaps you’ll continue to be the SR-521 overpass on the way to Greeleyville. These are your choices, Carol.
Carol smiled and bent over the counter to fill my glass. I approached mongoose-in-a-sack status.
I said, Back in a sec!
When we were all in college, Carol sucked me off at a fraternity house and I tasted her, too. In those days she was plastic handle whiskey and menthol cigarettes. Davy, out of town with the cross-country team, never found out. Despite it all, Carol and I are good people and decided not to screw around after that.
In the bathroom, I splashed water on my face and took deep breaths, trying kill my joint. I was not unused to moral crises of this sort—I stared at the godawful flower paintings on the wall, tried to lose myself in the pile of potpourri arranged on the lap of a terra cotta Buddha. Above all, I tried not to open the cellar where I keep moments like this. It is dark and has a dirt floor, and I went there often at this point in my life. Once I’m down there, it’s hard to go back to the good husband, good person floors.
When I came back outside, Carol was laid out on a white wicker chaise-lounge beside my wife. I had poured my own drink. There was barely enough to fill my glass halfway.
Sorry, Carol said. I gave yours to your wife.
And I’ve had another since then, said my wife.
I said, It’s okay, and smiled at her. She wore very large sunglasses, and I couldn’t tell if she looked back. She did not smile.
Davy, on the diving board again, said, Hey!
We all turned to look.
Sorry about earlier, I shouted.
My wife, who wore a straw hat that I bought from a roadside Gullah woman in Charleston, stood up and walked away without a word to anyone.
Davy stood at the tip of the diving board, eyes closed in concentration.
I saw you growing fantastic, Carol whispered, and slipped her hand up the leg of my trunks.
I wanted to say, We’re all rooting for you, Davy.
Carol found me in the mesh.
Vertical entry, I said in a whisper. No splash.
I said it on the wind. I was full of hope.
Davy bounced twice on the board, arced and descended into a swan dive more beautiful than any I have ever seen.
He went under.