So my son and I, in keeping with things we do best, check ourselves into a hotel, and tonight, muscles all a-spasm from the scaling of a 14,265 foot peak at dawn, break into the spa and fold back the cover of the small, salt-water pool.
“Um, are we supposed to be here?” my son asks, taking a look around, noticing, perhaps, that the lights are off, that the desk is unmanned, that we’re all alone in a place that is routinely more peopled.
“No,” I answer, slipping into the warm water. “Uh uh. We’re not.”
I considered very briefly withholding the truth, then quickly decided that not only would he have known I was lying, but that ultimately the question was existential in nature.
Django hesitates only a moment before ridding himself of his shirt and climbing in next to me.
“If someone walks by, we’ll just float on our backs and they won’t see us,” I counsel.
I, keen in my adult wisdom and motherly guidance.
The pool which tonight I’ve chosen to trespass was featured on the hotel channel back in our room, and was touted as being “possibly the highest elevation therapy pool in North America.”
“Possibly?” I said aloud to the television, but really more to my son. “What? Like it was just too difficult to do the research on that one?”
To me, the use of the word possibly denotes a willful dishonesty on the part of the resort’s marketing team, and as such, breaking and entering strikes me as less an offense than as par for the course.
Django and I sit quietly in the salty dark waters. After being together this long, we’re on that anti-climatic part of bonding that involves the sharing of space without commentary.
I rotate my right shoulder and it makes an audible noise like the cracking of small bird bones. I feel, perhaps much too self-importantly, much too delusionally, that this is a sympathy injury I’ve sustained in grieving my sister’s death. I don’t know why, but those last few weeks her right arm was all contorted against her rib cage like a dead insect’s.
“Should I put my head under?” Django asks. This is the type of life-altering advice he’s fond of seeking from me. I tend to go completely blank in the face of such questioning but am learning to provide firm and resolute answers regardless.
“You definitely should,” I thus say.
Django submerges his entire body underwater. I kind of miss him while he’s gone.
When he surfaces, I let him know that he possibly just broke the world record for holding one’s breath in the highest elevation therapy pool in North America.
We riff off of this a little bit, hoping to make it funnier. But when we don’t really get anywhere with it, he lets me know he’s heading back to the room.
He climbs out of the water and wraps up in a towel and as I look at him I’m bamboozled by the amount of love I still feel for this kid. This has been going on all day, actually. My repeatedly lifting my gaze to observe him always on the trail ahead of me, his rust-colored mountaineering pack an unintentional callback to those days when I used to dress him in a neon orange parka so that I wouldn’t lose him.
I escort him to the door of the spa, as if I’m its host.
“Thanks for coming,” I consider offering. But he beats me to the punch.
“Don’t steal anything on your way out,” he says, before parting.
I smile. I actually was going to steal things.
“I’m just going to have a look around,” I let him know.
I lock the door after him and then wander the dimly-lit space, opening and closing the door to every massage room, every closet, making a quick inventory and taking in each chamber’s musky smell.
I’m not sure what I’m looking for, just that I’m slightly disappointed by the tour’s end. I eventually follow the long hall back to the showers, where I rinse off in surprising blackness, wondering briefly if I should concern myself with being murdered.
But my murder, here and now, is not forthcoming.
The disappointing truth is that death itself can be less of an event than we might imagine.
My sister was born on the 30th of June. I was always a little impressed by the fullness of that date.
And I can’t explain it, but I’m now enormously agitated by her having died on June 11th. By the lack of mathematical symmetry there. It makes me so crazy that I can’t stand to think about it for any real length of time.
As if this is the real outrage.
As if this will be what finally does me in.
After the shower, I pad back up to the room in some black plastic shower slippers.
“Those aren’t yours,” Django tells me.
So I return to the spa and break in a second time, in order to return them.
As I’m passing by the salt-water pool again, there’s a noise which ends up being nothing more than the elevator down the hall. But before I know this, I fling myself up against the wall, and suddenly remember this stunt my sister used to pull on the diving board at about age eight or so.
“I’m Evel Kneivel,” she’d scream and, revving an imaginary motorcycle throttle, race her body to the diving board’s end and launch it as far as she could, madly spinning her arms and legs in the air in an exultant spatial arc.
I’d follow suit, having no idea what she was referencing, just doing it because she did.
And because those milliseconds of spastic free fall were one of life’s unhindered glories.