Your Friend With a Swimming Pool

by Helen Healey

Editor's note: the pieces in our Interregnum 2017 series were originally submitted to the Creative Writing competition as part of Interregnum XIII at The King's College. The following piece tied for first place. It was submitted on behalf of the House of Thatcher.


You’ve been staring at the tips of your socks and watching the red light on your ankle monitor blink for two hours now. You’re sitting on your bed, surrounded by tin foil and an elastic exercise band, a silver spoon and a small syringe, an old bag of orange slices -- caught in the eye of the dope tornado. You feel good. You’re not even thinking about the stupid thing you did.

Your old cat Kimba with a hip injury climbs on your bed and rubs herself next to your palm, but you can’t take your mind off the sock. “That’s my sock,” you think, “and that’s Kimba,” but you don’t move your hand to pet her. It’s in the high 80s outside today and your air conditioning isn’t very good. You’re sweating, badly, but it’s hard to take your mind off the sock. “It’s 82 degrees,” you remember, and that’s sweat on your arm.

The truth is if your house were on fire you wouldn’t budge from that spot on your bed. You’d still be thinking about your sock, like a true junkie. 

You hear a cabinet open and close downstairs and then here it is: the sweet spot. First there’s a warm feeling in your chest and then your veins expand and contract and turn into ice. They’re on vibrate and you feel like the guy in the 5 Gum commercial, basking in a pond of magnetic marbles.

Suddenly you’re not on your bed anymore, but lying on the cold sand with your girlfriend Heidi. You’re back a few months ago, before the stupid thing you did. You’re both lying on your backs looking at the overcast sky and you’re holding onto her pointer finger. It’s a Thursday and you just shot the white lady into your left forearm for the first time and you look into Heidi’s eyes and ask if she feels anything yet. “Not really,” she answers, and you hold onto her pointer finger staying quiet, listening to the sound of the bay and you have butterflies in your stomach but you try to relax, filling your diaphragm with air. An airplane is landing overhead and you hear its engine. Next thing you know you’re making love to her, right there in the sand. It’s freezing and you keep your face on her neck so both of you are warm enough. You feel the cold sand in your ear and smell the bay and her metallic-lime hair.

And then you open your eyes and you’re back in your room. The junk has run its course.

There’s the lighter and the spoon from your kitchen and the orange slices. And the tin foil. There’s your sock and there’s Kimba. You realize your mouth tastes like vinegar and Heidi hasn’t come to visit you since you’ve been stuck at home -- since the stupid thing you did.

Your mom is screaming your name now. She wants to know what you want for lunch. You’re itching all over. “I’m not hungry,” you yell back. You rub your face. You feel pretty nauseous.

You open the window and feel the sunlight on your forearm. You look down at the blinking light on your ankle and you itch even more.

You look outside and there’s Jack, your neighbor, in a pair of red swim trunks doing push-ups in his backyard. You’ve never met Jack, but he looks like a good kid to you. Maybe when this whole thing blows over, you’ll introduce yourself, and if you get on well you and Jack and Heidi can swim in his pool. That is, if Heidi could just forget about what you did.

When he’s through with the push-ups, you watch him reach his arms up toward the sun and take a delicious breath of air.  He climbs up the steps to an above-ground swimming pool, a big blue tub. The water reflects Jack’s image and you can tell he has big strong arms. He probably does push-ups everyday. Jack slaps a pair of goggles over his eyes and dives right in.

Your stomach feels rotten and he sun is making it worse.

Jack glides back and forth, dolphin-kicking his feet. You imagine yourself doing the same, moving through the ice with Jack, the sun on your back. 


Thumbnail image by Eleanor Allen.