Wait and See

(photo courtesy Aaron Davis @flickr.com/photos/lodown2011)

Olympic-sized indoor pools are all the same: A vault echoing with the splash and suck of water, air sharp with chlorine, rubber heads breaking the surface of artificial blue like blind worms threading up and down the lanes.

But it’s past your bedtime.  What in the world are you doing here under that cement sky, those electric neon stars?  Wait and see.  A man approaches.  He is fully clothed in cords and a sweater, leather loafers.  He is holding a net on a long metal pole.  He has the supercilious expression of someone used to giving dictation.  He is not smiling.

But this is the outside view, and you’re no fly on the wall.  No, you’re the kid in baggy trunks with your skinny arms wrapped around your chest.  You’re not omniscient but you know his middle name and that in his trouser pocket he carries fingernail clippers, a handkerchief, and a fat fold of bills clamped with a simple gold clip. You know that he likes his steak medium rare and his martini dirty and that the clothes in his closet hang on identical wooden hangars.  He loves his mother, he does sixty pushups every night, and he sleeps like a baby. 

 But you don’t know why he’s not smiling. “Go on,” he says, and there’s no use arguing, you’re old enough to know better, so just squeeze your shoulders and walk to the top of the steps, lean your bony hip against the twisted metal rung, wait and see. 

The skin of the water is elastic, shivering.  Along the bottom of the lane, a long blue line of tiles stretches, rippling like a giant snake.  But there’s no time left for looking.  You can’t read minds but you know what he wants you to do.  Just grab the rail and back down the ladder. 

The cold swallows whole, calves and thighs; wince as water snakes its icy vice grip into the fabric of your trunks and squeezes.  You are a beating heart in an ice box, a tongue skewered on an icicle, a chunk of live bait.  If you could see yourself now, you’d probably cry.  Instead, you grip the metal rung and turn to face that loafer jutting over the edge.

“Do it,” he says. When you can’t loosen your grip, he pokes your hand with the metal pole.  “You’re staying in there until you do.”

The only thing to do is let go.  It’s all about the struggle now, it’s all up to you and your skinny arms thrashing against nothing, feeble legs beating, beating against the void.  It’s an exercise not in trust but in suspended disbelief, a lesson in blind faith, an empty baptism.  The leather toe inches along the edge; the butt of the metal pole prods.  It takes a lifetime to reach the other end but you do, drag yourself up onto the ledge and sit there, teeth clacking in code but not crying, you know better than that. 

He throws you a towel. When he says he’s proud, you know he’s talking about himself.   Finally, he turns away toward the dressing room. 

The world is made of metal and cement;  the universe is infinite and chilling.  What are you doing here past your bed time?  Why are you here?  Wait and see.  Wait and see. 

*

This was an exercise in perspective.  I wanted to try my hand at the rarely-seen second person voice (if first person is “I” and third is “he/she,”  I wanted to experiment with the somewhat bossy/presumptuous second-person narrator.)  I think second person could only work for a very short piece—after too long, the reader would balk and tire of it all.  What do you think?  How did it feel for you reading this? 

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About Anna Fonté

Girl in the Hat, aka Anna Fonté, is an author who writes about invisibility, outsider status, everyday monsters, and her attempts to befriend the neighborhood crows. The things she writes want you to look at them.

10 comments

  1. Aaron

    I think you’re correct in saying a reader would tire reading a large piece in 2nd person. However is it possible to put it in intermittently throughout a larger piece, to give that different perspective and interest the reader. I felt the style kept me guessing.

    • Thanks for the visit, Aaron! And thank you for the use of your wonderful photo. I think my story is a little darker/direr than your image, but they both evoke the same ideas. So thank you!!

      • Aaron

        Thankyou Anna, it was a real thrill to read your story and see how it related to the image. I’d love to have a go at shooting for one of your stories or poems. So if you ever have a hard time finding an image, drop me a line and I’d be happy to give it a go.

  2. I agree with Aaron. I also really like this. I don’t have the vocabulary or specific learning to talk about ‘voice’, but I think there’s a poetic feeling to this second person voice that I like. Other than that, I love this piece! It feels strangely whole to me, but also as if it could be much longer and tell me even more of this story!

    • Thank you! I almost wanted to call this a poem instead of a short story– if I’d messed with the spacing of things, I think it could pass for a poem. It came from a dream, which might explain the poetic feeling… thanks for liking it!!

  3. Hey there Anna! I’ve been reading your blog since you told me about it. I’m a literature student, and I write… but man, I love your writing. Seriously it’s wonderful! You get right down to what’s honest, and honesty is amazing in writing. I appreciate it. You write well and this is something for me! I love the simplicity, and the strong impact resulting from it being so simple.

    xo Leslie June

    • Thank you, Leslie! Your comment made me very happy!! Thank you doubly because sometimes I find it very hard to be honest, especially when nobody says anything and I’m just standing there with my skirt over my head, waiting…. So thank you for your comment! And I can’t wait to use your fabulous underwater woman for a chapter– I’m saving it up for a special one.

  4. Hi Anna:

    Wow! I love that. I’m coming in kind of late to the party, so is this part of something bigger? It is wonderful. I want to know more about this woman. This man with the loafer and the fat wad of cash in his pocket. Was she waiting for him? Did they plan to meet there at the pool? I love the idea that she is “taking the plunge,” some act of faith – doing something strangely reckless. Yay you! 😉

  5. Thanks! I’m interspersing the chapters of my novel with short stories and personal essays– this one is my attempt at a short story. Thanks for reading!

  6. Pingback: What is There in These Dreams We Dream – Stories? More, Less? | Sparks In Shadow

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