Although I have seen photographs of my mother in a swimsuit I can’t remember ever actually seeing her swim. That is how you know it is really, truly hot, she says, peeling off her shirt and jumping straight off the diving board, breaking the water without the smallest of splashes, like she does this every day. My mother is nearly sixty, with tanned, rough skin from years spent baking herself in the sun at Rockaway Beach. All summer living at her house in New Jersey with my three children all I’ve heard her do is complain about the pool; on cool days she complains about how much it costs to heat it, and after a storm she mounts a complaint about each individual leaf blown onto the water. When she finds her little vacuum-robot stunned, its cord knotted, on the bottom of the deep end, she goes around interrogating each of the eight adults who live in the house, trying to find a witness who saw what happened to it. In the summer, many of us are in limbo, back in New Jersey. We are her audience. Today, the Amazon Echo tells us in the morning in a cheerful and matter of fact way that it will be nearly 100 degrees and we all groan over breakfast. My wife is at work, at the temporary nursing job she took in New York City to be closer to her dying mother, and I am stuck here, living at my parents’ for the first time in a decade. Today, opening the door is like opening an oven. Last night in Michigan our neighbors turned on the heat; it was fifty-five degrees. After my mother’s lithe, fifty-eight-year-old body breaks the water’s surface, we all dive in, me and my three little sons. When my mother leaves the pool to go inside to fix sandwiches for lunch a man rides up to the house on a motorcycle. He has been hired by my father to take my father and my brothers to a Tom Petty concert so they can drink as much as they want. He looks at me and looks away; here I am, a man swimming in a sports bra. I am not invited to the concert. I am not invited to any of the things my father does with my brothers during this summer of living back at home; it doesn’t feel like malice, only like he looks at me and sees someone I have not been for a very long time, perhaps never at all, someone you would never invite on a fishing weekend in Montauk or to hang out at a ballgame. A daughter. At my sister’s graduation party he is stunned and embarrassed when my twenty-four-year-old brother cannot change out the keg and I carry it across the backyard with a baby strapped to my back. I love Tom Petty, he heard me mumbling to my sister when I learned about the concert, and he asked me if I wanted to come the way you offer someone the last bite of your ice cream cone when you should have just given them their own, when it is so hot anyone would have wanted one. The man sits patiently waiting on his motorcycle for my father to come outside and looks at me, me in my swim trunks and sports bra; he’s unsure why I’m not inside getting dressed, or why he’s wondering that, or why he’s considering, or maybe just thirsting to dive in alongside me. It is, after all, so hot.
Krys Malcolm Belc’s chapbook of flash essays, IN TRANSIT, is forthcoming from The Cupboard Pamphlet. His essays have been featured in The Adroit Journal, Sonora Review, Brevity, and elsewhere, and his work has been supported by the Sustainable Arts Foundation. Krys lives in snowy Marquette, Michigan, where he is an MFA student at Northern Michigan University and the Managing Editor of Passages North.