Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
Swimming

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Sarah Kessler had her first real encounter with Rick Wolfson when he hit her leg with his gym bag at the West Side Nursery School. She had noticed him before of course, not because he was particularly handsome but because he had dark eyes and reckless hair and the sweaty intensity of an unsatisfied appetite. That Rick was married to a small-busted and well-assembled Wall Street banker who seemed unworthy of her husband’s bohemian charm only increased his value. As Sarah knew from experience, it was easier to fantasize about unhappy men.

Before the encounter, Sarah had been suffering through an awkward parent-teacher conference. Lily, Sarah’s three-year-old daughter, was still having difficulty adjusting to pre-school. Now the girl was wetting her pants.

“Is there trouble at home?” the teachers asked, obviously wondering about Sarah’s marriage, which despite her infatuations was not in the slightest danger. Her husband, a thin and tender ophthalmologist, was an affectionate man. Though Sarah was often too tired to make love, such things were common for women with young children. The Kesslers had two of them. Stuart, conceived after two rounds of in vitro fertilization, was eight years old and a student at New York City’s most prestigious public school. Lily went to the same nursery school as Rick’s son.

“You know,” said the matronly head teacher, “adopted children have special challenges.” She did not add, “especially when there are racial differences,” but that was surely what she meant. From the playground parents who assumed that the nanny was Lily’s mother, to the Kessler grandparents’ gratuitous adoration, to the homeless woman who once screamed, “Where’s that baby’s mama?”, everyone seemed preoccupied with the little girl’s origins. Sarah stood, tugging her un-tucked blouse over her once loose-fitting pants.

“Maybe she’s just a sensitive three-year-old. Is that an option here?” And without waiting for an answer, she opened the door smattered with curling photographs of all the children.

That is when Rick, bounding in for the next conference, hit Sarah’s leg with his gym bag. Sarah stumbled, Rick steadied her by the elbow, she thanked him for his kindness, and he gazed at her breasts with frank and shocking appreciation. He was easily a decade younger than Sarah, who was forty-five.

She had long been prone to sudden bouts of obsession. In the past few years alone, Sarah had fallen in love with her divorced boss at the advertising agency, with her husband’s dead cousin’s husband, and with her son’s brooding Hispanic chess coach. Trying to have a second baby and spending a fortune on fertility and then adoption had temporarily distracted Sarah from such men. After Lily arrived and Sarah quit her job to stay home, she was so fulfilled she lost five pounds. But now Lily was older, and Sarah had gained weight, and her longing returned like a dormant virus. Thus, within minutes of exiting the nursery school, Sarah saw Rick’s face on the snow-swept sidewalk, in the drug store windows, on the ATM screen as she withdrew cash to pay the nanny. She saw the way his black jeans sank on his hips.

At the holiday sing-along a few days later, Rick was the lone man in a room full of beaming mothers, half of them pregnant. Sarah directed herself into the little child’s chair beside him and started chatting. They had just finished commiserating about the Supreme Court’s decision on the presidential election when Lily deposited herself on Sarah’s lap. The younger teacher strummed a guitar, and the children, some held by their parents, some, like Rick’s son Lukas, obliviously playing with the blocks, made various efforts to accompany the adults in the holiday songs. Lily squirmed, rhythmically kicking Sarah with her shiny party shoes. After the performance, she joined her classmates at the snack table.

“Sarah, what a beautiful daughter you have,” Rick said, sounding strangely like the wolf from Little Red Riding Hood. Nevertheless, it was true. Lily had big eyes, soft ringlets, and a wide, rosy smile when she was happy—which she was that day because her mother was at school. In her velvet party dress and bright ribbons the child looked like a pudgy Christmas present.

Sarah thanked him, though she always felt odd taking credit for Lily’s dark-skinned loveliness. They paused, watching the children spill their juice. Lukas, stuffing himself with cookies, was tall with sandy hair like his mother.

“So,” Sarah shifted her hips, “it must be fun to be the only man in the room.”

Rick frowned. “Not really. I mean yes”—catching Sarah’s meaning and gazing at the mothers and especially at the young teacher—“it has its advantages. But I’m sure everyone here thinks I’m unemployed”—he cleared his throat—“and lazy, because Lukas has a nanny after school.” So did Lily, although Sarah had, in fact, quit her job. And because Rick clearly wanted to describe his work, and because his vulnerability made him more adorable, she asked him what he did.

It turned out Rick had an MFA from a low-residency writing program and was completing his first novel. “It starts with a decapitated woman in a swimming pool, and it’s told from this detective’s point of view.” He pointed to the familiar gym bag. “I’ve swum laps since college—that inspired the plot.” Leaning forward, Rick explained that the detective’s wife was cheating on him. Sarah encouraged him to continue.

“It’s just a thriller,” Rick concluded. “Hardly great art or anything, but I need something that will sell—to keep up with my Wall Street wife!"

Such marital discontent gave Sarah the confidence to start fantasizing in earnest during the Christmas vacation. On New Year’s Day, when her husband took the kids out for lunch, Sarah lay in bed, imagining a hazily lit swimming pool. She and Rick swam from the deep end to the shallow one. After ascending the steps in dripping silence, they walked toward a suddenly materializing pool equipment closet. Rick punched open the door, kicked away the flotation devices in their path and yanked Sarah’s bathing suit to the floor. When he rammed himself inside her, Sarah gripped his backside with her thighs.

That night, after deciding to join Rick’s health club and to start swimming laps herself, Sarah opened the children’s bedroom door. Stuart was snoring on the top bunk bed, but Lily sat bolt upright. “There was a birthday party,” she cried, as Sarah ducked and sat beside her. “And the scary balloon got bigger and bigger.” The little girl was wide awake, her warm hand on Sarah's neck. “And then—”

“Yes?”

“I popped it, like that.” Lily stabbed her finger in the air.

“Well that was smart since it was frightening you, honey.” With a surge of concentration, Sarah watched her daughter’s pretty face, her pouting lips and tiny teeth.

“No Mommy! Because the noise was like screaming and I couldn't ever find you.”

In the master bedroom, her shirtless husband, balancing one hand on the old television set and unlacing his shoe, suggested that Lily seemed much calmer despite her nightmares. Having told him nothing negative about the parent-teacher conference, Sarah simply nodded. Her husband smiled at her thoughtfully, his pale chest gently heaving. When Sarah unhooked her bra, her breasts bounced in release, and he caught them like squirming animals. She and her husband were nearly the same size (he was thinner and slightly taller), and when he led her like a dance partner to the bed Sarah obliged.

On a bleak January morning the nursery school reopened, and Sarah asked Rick where his health club was.

“Why?” It was warm in the busy classroom. Rick’s face was ruddy and unshaven.

“I made a New Year’s resolution to start swimming.” Sarah nodded to her own gym bag.

Lily started crying. “Don’t go, Mommy!”

“Come on, Lily.” Sarah pulled off the girl’s hat, making her black hair jump up. “You promised to be good.” Now Lily sobbed harder, rubbing her wet nose in Sarah’s pants.

Rick looked down sympathetically. “I always hated the end of vacation.” He gently touched the girl’s hair, briefly brushing Sarah’s thigh and surprising Lily so much that she stepped back to avoid his hand.

Sarah seized the opportunity. “You’re going to be fine, Lily.” And before the child could pounce, Sarah scooped up her gym bag and raced down to the lobby. “Shall we go swimming?” she said a few minutes later when Rick emerged from the elevator. “I guess,” he said dubiously.

They walked the short distance to his health club, which, as Sarah had suspected, was the unglamorous one on Broadway with the blue and white banner. The pool itself, she discovered after purchasing a trial membership, was dingy, cramped and deep in the building’s basement. Instead of the sexually conducive equipment closet Sarah had imagined, there was a rickety metal cabinet with blue kickboards and Styrofoam bar bells. The only thing that looked vaguely enticing was the hot tub.

Rick stood at the furthest lap lane near a sign on the wall that said “Fast Swimmers Only!” His very hairy body had touching hints of flab. Sarah waved and he nodded, stroking his chest absentmindedly, then plunging in with a racer’s dive. Sarah walked over to the “Slow Swimmers” lane. Gripping the concrete ledge with one foot, she dipped the other in the cold water.

Seven tortuous laps later she entered the hot tub. In the pool, Rick’s arms rose and fell, his head vanishing with each flip turn, each ecstatic burst of foam. Finally, he took off his goggles and pushed vigorously onto the ledge. Sarah, her skin warm and crumpled, rose and ambled toward him.

“That’s an obscene number of laps you do.”

“I know. I’m an addict.” Rick glanced at the beautiful young woman in the lifeguard chair. She had perfect legs and beaded braids.

They walked past the rows of lap lanes towards the big signs for the locker rooms: “Men,” right and “Watch Your Step Going Up”; “Women,” left and “Watch Your Step Going Down.”

Sarah tapped her feet on the slick tiles. “Perhaps I’ll come again.”

Rick looked at her then. God bless him, he looked at her cleavage. The warmth basted Sarah’s throat like butter. She saw her chance. “So how’s that woman in your novel doing? Still decapitated?”

“And naked in the swimming pool. Don’t forget that. The detective—”

Rick paused, his eyes innocently widening. “Are you really interested?”

“In headless women and detectives? Who wouldn’t be?”

“Thanks. Well, he can’t stop confusing her with his cheating wife, can’t stop seeing her,” Rick stopped, mesmerized by his own imagination, “drowning and dismembered, blood swirling from her—”

A free-styler and back-stroker nearly crashed into each other. “Lovely!” Sarah said when the lifeguard’s whistle subsided.

“Is it too cliché?”

Sarah almost had to laugh. “That’s not the first thing that comes to mind.” And then, because Rick clearly needed more flattery, she added, “it’s very suspenseful.”

Rick look relieved.

After showering quickly, Sarah waited for him in the lobby, leaning seductively on the fake stucco pillar and watching the fat receptionist steal glances at a sitcom on her little television set. The members came and went, a young woman in tight leggings, a gay man with a shaved head, a bluish octogenarian. Forty-five minutes later, Sarah exited the club alone.

That same afternoon, Wendy the nanny, who was five months pregnant, left early for an obstetrician appointment. Stuart was building an extravagant city out of Lego, and Lily, still groggy from her nap, sucked her thumb in front of her Beauty and the Beast video. The living room grew dim, the winter dusk thickening between the childproof window guards.

“Mommy’s going to lie down, honey.” Sarah stroked Lily’s hair. “If you need anything ask Stuart.”

Lily removed her thumb with a reluctant pop and turned, wide-eyed in the rusty darkness.

“You’re tired, Mommy?”

“Yes, Mommy’s very tired.”

Sarah shuffled down the long hallway, past the closets, the children’s room, the crusts of chipped paint on her bedroom door. After hesitating a moment, she slid the latch of the little silver lock her husband had recently installed.

She passed the television on the bureau and lay down, a weighted vacancy in her chest. He didn’t wait for her, she thought, unzipping her pants. And who could blame him? A young, attractive man with a financially supportive wife. But “naked,” he also said. “Don’t forget that.”

Maybe next time he would wait. Maybe next time they would walk in the stately shade of the pre-war buildings. Rick would nod eagerly when Sarah invited him up for coffee. After helping remove her coat he would say, “what big breasts you have!” And the next thing you knew they would be ripping off their clothes, tumbling past the refrigerator, throbbing with pleasure on the jaundiced kitchen floor.

“Mommy! Maaaaaa!” The bedroom rattled, its feeble latch straining.

Sarah rose heavily, re-adjusting her pants before releasing the lock. There was Stuart, red-faced and steaming, Lily crying on the floor behind him.

“She ruined my Lego city!”

“Stuart didn’t help me pee-pee!”

Sarah gathered the soaking girl and surveyed the children’s bedroom. A few buildings were damaged and one skyscraper had collapsed, but the rest of the city was intact. There was a fire station, a yellow drawbridge and blue and gray high rises with little gaps for windows.

Sarah touched Stuart’s bony shoulder. “You can easily repair it.”

Her son stared at her with speechless rage, eyes pale and narrow behind his oval glasses. Then he hurled himself at the city, crashing the buildings with such fury that they hit the floor like fireworks, the colorful pieces scattering everywhere.

“Stop!” Sarah pleaded.

Stuart jumped on a green piece of a platform, cracking it in half. “I hate her!” He was sobbing now, holding his glasses in his hand, the floor littered with the sad remains of his long labor.

Composed by his hysteria, Lily made her case. “Stuart hit me, Mommy.”

“Well you bit me, you little bitch! You see Mom.” He shook his forearm in Sarah’s face, showing her a small circle of tooth marks.

“Don't call your sister that,” Sarah said, trying to touch the wound. Stuart yanked away and slammed the door.

Sarah deposited Lily in the bathroom and knelt to start the tub. “You know you’re not allowed to bite people.” She unpeeled the child’s dress and underwear.

Lily looked down somberly, her belly button level with her mother’s mouth. “You know he’s not allowed to hit me, Mommy.”

And this too is true, Sarah thought, holding Lily's hand to help her into the tub. After making herself comfortable, Lily overturned the mildewed container with her Disney dolls. The naked bodies, one missing a leg, drifted dreamily around the water.

Two days later Sarah went back to the pool with Rick. A few days after that, she went again, and then again. Though hardly effusive, Rick began to expect her company. After Sarah’s fifth swim he waited for her in the lobby. After the seventh, they had coffee at the Broadway Diner. Eventually, their swimming became an arrangement so routine it shed the stigma of its origin. By late February they walked to the health club several times a week. Sarah sat with Rick in the hot tub, discussing his novel or mocking the president. They walked home swinging their gym bags, the ruddy buildings powdered with frost.

The seasons changed with a vengeance and by late March it was suddenly warm and soupy. One humid afternoon, when Stuart was in chess club and their nannies were doing chores, Rick and Sarah took Lukas and Lily to the Children’s Swim. Lukas hurled himself into the water and paddled with abandon. Lily stood paralyzed by the concrete ledge, looking like a lost duckling in her frilly yellow bathing suit. Rick finally coaxed her into the pool by promising to “make it fun.”

Rick was, in fact, so busy lifting the giggling girl up and down in the water that when Lukas poised to dive into the shallow end, the beefy lifeguard had to snatch the boy back. “Don’t get a concussion on me, man!” The guard stared accusingly at Sarah as if Lukas were her kid. For a split second Sarah imagined the child’s head cracking open under water, his blood spooling out and turning pink. But Lukas was fine, and Lily soon relaxed. She let go of Rick’s chest hair and played duck-duck-goose and tag. Only once did the little girl give way to terror, nearly pulling off Sarah’s straps as she came up for air.

At the beginning of May, Lily and Stuart’s nanny was ready for her maternity leave. On Wendy’s last day of work, Sarah consoled herself by buying an expensive low cut bathing suit, and walking all the way home in the rain. Stepping around the oily puddles, she assured herself that the garment wasn’t too revealing, that she deserved to for losing weight. At the pool the next morning, Rick said, “nice bathing suit.”

After swimming, they stopped for chicken salad at the Broadway Diner. “Well,” Rick said, a little lettuce hanging from his mouth. “The detective has himself a whore.” He had taken to launching into his novel’s latest developments in medias res, as if Sarah were always eager for the next installment.

She swallowed her diet soda. “Has her how?”

“How many ways are there, Sarah?”

“Does he want to kill her? Or his wife?”

Rick raised his left eyebrow, and wiped his mouth. “For that, you’ll have to read my novel.”

And the seriousness with which he finished the sandwich made Sarah more certain than ever before: His marriage had to be in trouble. Maybe he and Margot never had sex. Maybe they would get divorced. When Sarah got home she locked the bedroom door.

In June, Lukas’s nanny went to Jamaica to nurse her dying mother. Rick described the tragic details. “She never met her father, her brother was murdered and now this.” Naturally he and Margot had promised to save the nanny’s job for her return. “But when the hell will that be?” Despite his sympathy for the nanny, Rick couldn’t help but worry about losing so much childcare. Sarah knew how he felt since, as she reminded him, Wendy had just left to have a baby.

“Yeah,” Rick said, “but you don’t have a novel to finish.”

Two mornings later, he descended slowly into the hot tub, and looked at Sarah with guilty pride: “Margot’s pregnant. She can’t stop throwing up.”

The pain was searing and stark, like Sarah’s chest was peeling open. She steadied herself to congratulate him and ask about the due date.

“January. I’m not supposed to tell anyone.” Rick smiled sheepishly.

He said Margot was planning an extended maternity leave, so now he really had to finish “the goddamn novel and find some real work.” With brute determination, Sarah remained insouciant. “Does Lukas know about the baby yet?” she asked, as if she really gave a shit. Later, they stopped for iced coffee on Broadway, discussed the execution of the Oklahoma City bomber, and Rick walked her all the way home.

But the moment Sarah reached her bedroom, she slid the silver lock and wept. Of course Rick fucked his wife. For a long time, Sarah sobbed, rocking back and forth on her mattress. Finally, she calmed down enough to realize that Rick could still be unhappy. He could still feel emasculated by Margot’s Wall Street job. He could fuck his wife and get her pregnant and still hate her guts.

The solace freed Sarah to unzip her pants and try to rearrange the morning. This time Rick reached towards Sarah in the swimming pool. “Margot may be pregnant but it’s you I really want!” He put he put her hand on his erection. Sarah tilted her pelvis toward him.

And suddenly, out of nowhere Lukas dove straight into the shallow water. The beautiful lifeguard blew her whistle. “Don’t get a concussion on me, man!” Her words echoed valiantly from wall to wall. But when the little boy re-surfaced, his bloody head was dangling.

Sarah sat straight up, her heart pounding. What the hell was wrong with her? The sunlight careened off the little television set.

That summer the streets were painful, the buildings smoky in the haze. Old chewing gum and Chinese food melted on the pavement. The children waded listlessly through the playground’s metallic sprinklers. In late July, Rick announced that he had finished a draft of the novel and sent it to a “book doctor.”

“Is your book that sick?”

Rick was not amused. “You pay him to revise it, Sarah.” He removed the lid of his iced coffee, and stirred in several packets of sugar. “Lots of writers use book doctors.”

In August, Rick went with Lukas and Margot to Cape Cod. Sarah’s family went to the Jersey Shore. Stuart ran in and out of the waves. Occasionally he held Lily’s hand and waded with her in the eddies. At night, Sarah closed her eyes and saw Lukas in the swimming pool. She lifted him by the nape of the neck as if he were kitten. Then she smashed his sandy-haired head on the pool’s concrete ledge. When it popped off like a bottle cap, Sarah started screaming. Sarah screamed like the lifeguard’s whistle. Sarah screamed like a human siren.

The first Wednesday in September Lukas and Lily began their second year of nursery school. Rick, robust and tan, deposited a perfunctory kiss on Sarah’s cheek. Lily stood in front of them, painting a purple circle at an easel.

“Guess what?” Rick was barely able to contain himself. “That book doctor I told you about really liked my novel. He wants to help me sell it.”

“It’s me, Mommy.” Lily pointed her dripping brush to the overgrown eggplant. “Do you like it?”

“That’s beautiful, sweetheart.” Sarah unsnapped Lily’s smock and helped her step out of it. On the other side of the room, Lukas was already making a building. He’d grown taller and blonder over the summer.

The teacher started clapping in the middle of the room. “Morning meeting, children. Come sit on the rug.”

“Go on, honey.” Sarah gave Lily a little push. For a moment, the girl resisted, but when a friend beckoned, Lily sat down.

“So—now what?” Sarah and Rick approached the ailing elevator. Because the pool was closed for a week of repairs, Sarah hoped he would ask her to breakfast.

“So now the guy wants to meet with me next Tuesday”—the door opened to reveal a janitor with a bulging garbage bag—“to talk about revisions and possible publishers. I just need someone to pick up Lukas after school.” Apparently, the nanny’s mother was still dying in Jamaica. Rick looked at Sarah appealingly.

“I can pick him up.”

Rick squeezed Sarah’s arm. “I was hoping you’d offer.”

“How about I take him and Lily to the Children’s Swim.” Sarah regretted the words the instant she released them, but it was too late.

“Perfect! Lukas would love that.”

The elevator opened. The janitor heaved the garbage with a grunt and they followed him onto the sun-swept street. Rick put on his sunglasses.

When they reached the corner he turned to Sarah, his chin above her head. “I’ll swim with you that morning, before my meeting, if you want.”

The suggestion was almost insulting, as if the swim would be his sacrifice, her compensation for being his son’s nanny for the day. “Is that what you want?”

“Sure. It will relax me for the book doctor.” Each lens of Rick’s sunglasses reflected the warped smile on Sarah’s face.

Next Tuesday. The details stumbled into position. In the morning Rick would swim with her. They would sit together in the hot tub. In the afternoon, Sarah would take Lily and Lukas to the Children’s Swim. She would tell the lifeguard to keep an eye on him. Lukas would be fine. Lukas would be fine, she promised herself as she lay in bed at night. And then she grabbed him by the collarbone, lifted him high above the water, and smashed his head on the pool’s concrete ledge.

Tuesday morning was spectacular. The toxic heat had finally yielded to a credible breeze, and the buildings seemed spit and polished like new shoes. Rick, wearing a sports coat and tie, practically threw his arms around Sarah. “Let’s go swimming!”

As they walked, he chatted so greedily that Sarah needed only to breathe and swallow. The sidewalk sparkled in the sun. It would be fine, she thought. She would tell Lukas to be careful, she would tell him not to dive.

Compared to the brilliant city morning, the pool seemed cavernous and sad. On the deck, at the far end of the lap lanes, Rick’s knees were bent, his arms raised behind his back. He nodded at Sarah and threw himself into a racer’s dive.

Sarah sauntered over to the slow lane, sat down on the concrete ledge, and was suddenly overwhelmed by the beauty of cement. For the first time in her life, Sarah noticed its speckled density, the seemingly infinite shades of brown and gray. She stroked the ledge tentatively, expecting something sharp. To her surprise, it was merely gritty, and mostly damp and slick. Sarah paused, then stroked again. Again the ledge was slick.

The sudden relief was electric. It really would be fine! For how could anybody grab a child by the neck, lift him high above the water, and decapitate him on this ledge? Surely chopping off a person’s head, even that of a small child, required serious utensils. Surely, headless bodies floated only in the swimming pools of rather awful novels.

It really would be fine, thank God. And with that, Sarah swam.

It wasn’t until Sarah completed her laps, until she and Rick parted at the locker rooms—“Men,” right and “Watch Your Step Going Up”; “Women,” left and “Watch Your Step Going Down”—until she swung open the doors to the lobby, until she saw the crowd of people, frozen and aghast, that Sarah first learned there was a problem. The fat receptionist had turned her television set around so that everyone could see the smoking towers like silver chimneys in the sky. It took Sarah a moment to recognize the landscape, to get a sense of what was happening, to realize that this was some kind of national disaster.

Rick ran towards Sarah, grabbing her shoulders with such vigor it seemed he might kiss her at last.

“Margot—” his eyes were wild “—works right down the block!”

Sarah stepped back. “But I thought she worked on Wall Street.”

“There’s no fucking difference, Sarah!”

People started touching. An ancient woman clung to a body builder. The aerobics teacher hugged the receptionist. Others ran out the open door to Broadway, which was quietly filling with bodies, with purposeful elbows and legs, steadily streaming uptown.

Sarah grabbed Rick’s jacket. “I’m still babysitting for Lukas, right?” For now it seemed more important than ever. Sarah had to take the boy swimming. She had to hold his little hand. She had to return him clean and dry.

Gaping, Rick pulled free of her grasp. “Are you out of your fucking mind?” He gestured at the blur of people outside. “Get your children and go home!” And without waiting for Sarah, he ran out the door, swinging his gym bag. By the time Sarah reached the nursery school, father and son were already gone.

Sarah collected her own children, ushering them home under the gauzy quiet that despite the sirens, the crowds, the blaring televisions in every household, seemed to muffle the upper west side. They entered the living room, stepping around the familiar litter of toys. After her husband called to say he loved them, Lily obliviously watched a video, and Stuart grilled Sarah at the kitchen table. “Was it terrorism? What is terrorism? Did they kill the president?” Eventually, Stuart went to his bedroom, and Sarah picked up her gym bag and followed, gazing absently as her son put his Lego pieces in different colored piles.

Sarah stepped into her own bedroom and slid the lock. She removed her wet bathing suit from the gym bag, hung it in the master bathroom and clicked on the little television set on the bureau. There the towers stood. There they disappeared. Like delicate fistfuls of sand, they fell and fell again.

Two years later, long after Rick and his family moved from Manhattan to the suburbs, Sarah would sit on the toilet reading about the famous falling man who plunged headfirst from Tower 1. Some said the man had heroically embraced his death. Some said he ended with a perfect “swan dive.” Banal as they were, these words would startle Sarah so much that she would stand up and weep, the urine dripping down her thighs.

But for now, on that crystal September Tuesday, with her fists inside her pockets and the towers falling down, the television was blurry, the sirens wouldn’t stop, and Lily was crying plaintively beyond the silver lock.

 

 

 

 

 

 

An earlier version of this story was published in 2010 in Talon Online Magazine.



Susan Celia Greenfield is a Professor of English literature at Fordham University. Her short stories have appeared in Cimarron Review, A Room of One’s Own, and online in Big Bridge.  Her online op-eds and essays can be found in CNN Opinion, The Huffington Post, The Los Angeles Review of Books, Ms. Magazine Blog , and PBS Need to Know. She is the author of many scholarly articles, a co-edited anthology called Inventing Maternity and a book entitled Mothering Daughters.  She has a twenty-three year old daughter and a nineteen year old son and lives with her husband in New York City, where they both bemoan their empty nest. An earlier version of “Swimming” was published in 2010 in Talon Online Magazine.


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This is a haunting story--compelling in its honesty about sexual fantasy and beautifully written. I'm fascinated by the ways the interior and exterior worlds intersect--will have to mull over what those intersections suggest!
Loved the original, and this one is even better......
Wonderful fantasy mixed with reality. Had me rivited and didn't want to put it down! Great read - Loved it :)
I love the textured sensory worlds created here, and how so much is evoked in so few words. For example: "The living room grew dim, the winter dusk thickening between the childproof window guards." The story wonderfully captures the way it's possible -- and even necessary -- to inhabit multiple worlds simultaneously, and how parenthood fractures, complicates, disturbs and deadens perception and identity. Fascinating!
An incredible complex projection of well developed compartmentalized phenotypes struggling to realize the essence of their phenotypes!
An incredible complex projection of well developed compartmentalized phenotypes struggling to realize the essence of their genotypes!
Many thanks to everyone for your thoughtful comments. They make me very happy.
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