Poolside

January 3, 2021

I exchanged some words with the lady lying next to me, who seemed to enjoy basking in the sun equally as much as me. She was holding a Dan Brown novel I had never heard of before. 

“I love Dan Brown books,” I said.

I had only ever read one Dan Brown book, but Inferno was good enough - and his reputation well-renowned enough - for me to assume all his works were literary masterpieces. Or perhaps I was trying to seem more sophisticated. Why I would care to impress this lady, or even start a conversation with her, I did not know. I suppose something inside of me was trying to appeal to her; some deeply rooted desire to impress those who are older than me which originated during my youngest years. I did not realize this until I wrote this down.


The lady proceeded to talk to me about The Da Vinci Code, which I never fully admitted or denied having read. I in fact have not read The Da Vinci Code, but felt ridiculous in admitting so. Who would claim to love Dan Brown books and not have read The Da Vinci Code?


We exchanged a few words about how books are usually better than movies; the one thing I knew was true in Inferno’s case. I then agreed with her last statement with a lighthearted “Exactly!” and looked back at my book. I wondered whether this remark seemed as abrupt a conversation killer to her as it seemed to me. I felt slightly awkward for having said it, but then again, if we had spoken longer, the closing remark to that conversation would have been even more uncomfortable. 


I thought about suggesting my own book for her to read. Murakami is a literary genius; everyone should read his work. Then I thought about all the occasions where I’ve been told, “You NEED to read this book” or “You HAVE to watch this movie,” to which I usually replied with something along the lines of “Will do.” And to a certain extent, the intention was there, but somewhere deep in my subconscious I knew I’d never get around to it. These were merely subjective recommendations; why should I trust that their impressionistic interests aligned with my own?


After these three seconds’ worth of thought processing, I opted for not recommending her my book. Besides, with such a gem as a Dan Brown book in her hand, whose bookmark indicated it not having been read even a third of the way through, who’s to say this white, privileged, middle-aged soccer mom had time to read books? Especially those recommended to her by a young girl at the pool who looked no older than a late teenager. Then again, she might have started the book yesterday. What did I know? In which case she would have been an impressively avid reader - a quality I could have never perceived with my five senses by just glancing at her from behind my sunglasses. It’s interesting, how multifaceted people can be; how we can never tell how truly intricate people’s personalities are just from looking at them. Then again, sometimes what you see on the surface is all there is to them.


Everything that happens in this world is relative.


The lady picked up her things and left, accompanied by none of the obnoxious kids yelling in the pool. I thought she was there to guard over one of the rascals unpleasantly screaming “Polo!” during their Marco Polo game. Earlier, we had bonded over our mutual distressing feelings towards this nuisance.


“I have noise cancelling earphones on and I can still hear them vividly,” I said.

“I wish I had those,” she replied. “I came here for some peace and quiet, but guess not!”

I laughed a respectful chuckle. One of those fake laughs you force out of your breath just to end a conversation without making it awkward. 


But the lady left the premises on her own. I guess she really had come here by herself for some peace and quiet, which made me have slightly more respect for her. Perhaps she wasn’t the presumptuous, non-reading, I-need-to-watch-my-kid-at-the-pool-so-I’ll-pretend-to-read-while-doing-so mom I had profiled her to be. Perhaps her Dan Brown book was only read a third of the way through because every time she came here to read, there was an obnoxious, socially unaware kid in the pool yelling the name of a 13th-century Italian merchant while using highly unnecessary lung power. I peeked at the boy’s dad from the corner of my sunglasses. I knew it was him because they had been there the day before - the boy having acted just as disruptive. Who raises these children? How can a parent be so unaware that their child is being such a massive disturbance to society? I guess his obliviousness explains the kid’s.


“Enjoy!” the lady said to me as she walked away.

“Thanks, you as well!” I replied, with no clue of what she could possibly enjoy after leaving the pool, the place she left the comfort of her home for in search of peace and quiet, and even there was unable to find any. 


It’s interesting, how after only a brief exchange of words, this lady felt the need to say goodbye to me when she left. As if there was now a tiny thread attaching us that compromised her into being polite to me. A thin, almost invisible thread - not thick enough to be string, yet much more prevalent than the non-existing connection we had before exchanging words. I guess this is how acquaintances are made.


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