It started as the water splashed on my face as I swam to the edge to climb out. Running for the towel because the sun was starting to set and it was colder out than in.
He was singing the end of I Didn't Understand and I was trying to dry off as slowly and as noiselessly as possible so I wouldn't miss any of it. He finished and ducked below the surface. I settled back into the chair and grabbed for the pack of cigarettes I had found on the floor in the kitchen. No idea whose they were, but there was one left and I needed to be warmer than I was, so I lit one and closed my eyes. The towel started to fall down the arms of the chair, but I suddenly got too tired to bother putting it around my own arms again.
It started in the pool where I heard a faint splash and wondered if he was coming out or going in. I felt ready to fall asleep when I had this sensation that my hand was now empty and it left me with this incredible sense of dread, like the whole world would burn down from my cigarette. And it wasn't even mine to begin with. I just found it, is all.
I started shivering as I had when I first got out of the pool and opened my eyes, stepping out of my half-sleep state to him kissing me. The pool water was colder than I remembered it being and put my feet up on the chair. He stepped back and put a cigarette in his mouth. My cigarette. That cigarette. He was shaking a bit from the cold, so I threw him my towel and wrapped my arms around my knees. The sun was officially gone and I could see little more than that faint glowing coming from his mouth. He turned to me and asked if I was going back in. I looked over at him without saying anything because he looked so perfect, cigarette in his hand, hoping I understood what he meant. He said that I had to have remembered why he surprised me coming out of the pool and I finally answered him because I had to and said of course I remember Goodbye, Columbus and was amazed that he had because it was over four years ago we had that class together and he didn't surprise me all the much anyway.
It started in the pool. I was his Brenda and he was my Neil. I grabbed the cigarette from his mouth and got the last drag before bending down in the dirt lining the walkway to stamp it out. And watch as all of the tiny red spots disappeared.
It stopped in the bedroom where I pulled underwear and a tank top on and never even reached the pajamas on my bed before the phone rang.
It stopped in the bedroom when the phone rang. He put his arms around me and I stopped listening to the woman on the phone, so I had to ask her to repeat herself. And all I know is that I definitely said hello. And one moment, please.
The hallway to the living room was longer than I remembered and my feet turned in as I walked. I still hadn't put pajamas on and would've gone back to get them but I had left him waiting and the hallway was getting longer the more steps I took. And my feet were turning in so much that they turned around and slowed me down.
The farther I walked, the less I could remember that he was sitting on my bed, looking through a box of old books for Goodbye, Columbus.
It stopped in the bedroom and he stopped in my bedroom, humming Lullaby and leafing through pages. He stopped in my bedroom when I finally reached the living room and blindly jabbed the phone in my mother's direction. I think she may have asked who it was and why I wasn't looking at her. I think my eyes were blue that day. Bluer than normal. I think they were losing all their other color. I turned and started the trip back, never flinching at the sounds I was hearing on the way.
It stopped in the bedroom, where he bolted out when he heard screams and went running to see if my mother was okay. He didn't stop to look at me. There were no screams in the hallway. Screams take priority. He only hesistated when I said I'm going for a swim, Neil. He only hesitated for a second because it had already left him and he didn't know to whom I was referring.
It ended in the pool.
It ended in the pool where I didn't bother to put the wet bathing suit back on. I still hadn't put my pajamas on and I walked down the dirt lining the walkway, picking up what was left of my cigarette. Our cigarette. I managed to light it again as I sat back down in the chair. It seemed to last forever, longer than the hallways. Longer than the screams.
It ended in the pool while he was still inside and probably would be till the screams had ended, which they never would. I had to surprise myself, so I jumped to hear that little crack of water. I floated for a few minutes till I could no longer hear her screams and decided to wait patiently till he showed up outside. To surprise me. To stay out here until my screaming stopped. Until the serenity of floating finally hit me. Until my cigarette finally burned the world down.