The Gravity of Water
by Eric Scot Tryon
“Come on, baby,” my wife Danielle says to me, “the water’s warm.”
Marianne is behind her, frog-kicking to stay afloat while gripping Danielle’s shoulders and whispering in her ear. They nod, giggle, and splash together like school girls. Sitting on the edge of the pool, I watch Marianne take off her bikini top and hold it above her head, swinging it around like a lasso before throwing it onto the cement. Danielle yelps and dunks Marianne below the surface.
From inside, Kurt has changed the music to something aggressive and turns up the volume so loud it disrupts the rhythm of my heart.
“Baby, baby!” Danielle yells. “Look!” Her voice is loose from a long night of food, weed, and alcohol. Her long brown hair lays wet, flat and swirled around her shoulders as she holds her bikini top up over her head with both hands. Her small breasts are exposed to me for just a moment before she lets out a squeal and quickly drops back into the water.
We should have left hours ago.
Inside, Kurt turns off the patio lights, and the underwater bulb that rotates colors is the only things keeping us from pure darkness.
A shiny inflatable sea turtle knocks into my left ankle. The hole in the middle is just large enough to fit a small child, and its head droops sadly in front of me. I kick it towards Danielle with a desperate hope that she’ll see it as a sign to leave.
“Get the fuck in here,” she yells, pushing the turtle aside. “C’mon, babe, don’t be a pussy!”
These are not words she uses.
Blinking hard twice, I try to fight off the alcohol that blurs my vision. The girls are now pushing and pulling the water around them as it distorts their excess of white flesh. Marianne says something to Danielle that I can’t hear over the screaming guitars, and they both look at me and laugh before disappearing under the blue water.
Kurt emerges through the sliding glass doors, nodding to the music as if there is a steady, recognizable beat. There’s not. And his hands are balancing four wide glasses filled with another round of margaritas that are nearly all tequila.
When she sees him, Marianne shoots out of the water which is now red and arches her back to expose her big tits to her husband.
“My god!” he yells. “What have I missed?” He throws his head back and howls like a wolf.
Back in the day, the four of us were inseparable. Carefree, C-students gliding along at Long Beach State. I met Danielle in a freshman anthropology class, Kurt met Marianne at a frat party the following year, and the rest was history. But if we met them today, would they even stick?
“Get in here, big boy,” Marianne says to Kurt, and for the first time I spot a tattoo in the middle of her back. A large spider web that drips blood into words I can’t read.
Danielle swims to her glass and sips from it feverishly as she laughs at Marianne who continues to bounce in front of Kurt, taunting him, “Come and get me, come and get me.”
He backs up and drops his swim trunks all in one motion, as if he’s been waiting to do so all night. As he sprints towards the water all I see is his penis flopping between his two white thighs like it’s made of Jell-O. He howls again as he leaps into the air hugging his knees to his chest, and he lands with an impressive splash into the water which now glows yellow.
He surfaces with a toothy smile. “Grab your drink and get your ass in here, man!” He pushes away a pink ball, and runs his hands through his long black hair.
In college we took camping trips to Yosemite, smoked pot on the roof of the library, and when Marianne was blindsided by a drunk-driver senior year, we cooked Kurt lasagnas and casseroles and relieved him of bedside duty when the bags under his eyes pulled hard on his skin.
A couple years later, Danielle and Marianne were maids of honor for one another, but new cities, new jobs, and the long, bizarre passage into adulthood took its toll. While Kurt and Marianne began popping out kids like they were on an assembly line, Danielle and I repeated the mantra— careers then kids, careers then kids. And one year became ten, and soon we were just Christmas card friends. Yet here we are tonight. The four of us, together again, drunk into the late hours of the night where judgment has long ago put itself to bed.
“C’mon, man,” Kurt says like we’re in the fifth grade, splashing water in my direction. “What are you… shy?” I expect him to start bawking like a chicken, and all three of them look at me expectantly.
“Baaaaaby!” Danielle calls, hands outstretched.
“I think I’m good up here.” I sit on my hands and kick the water in circles. “Someone’s got to stay dry to make the next round, right?” But the glasses that Kurt just brought to the side of the pool are still full. Drinking was an earlier activity. We’ve moved on to something different altogether.
“What a prude!” Danielle, slurs. “Look, guys. I married a scared little prude!”
I search my wife’s eyes to see if I have completely lost her to this night, lost her to the four or five margaritas and the intoxication of reminiscing. Her eyes are glassy, and she’s twirling and swimming about in the water that is now green. She moves as if to music that is rhythmic and danceable instead of the shrieking and punching noise that pollutes the air. She jumps up again, this time more brave, laughs, grabs hold of her breasts and shakes them.
These are not things she does.
Kurt and Marianne meet up in the middle of the pool and begin to chant, “Strip! Strip! Strip!” as they slap at the water with open palms. But it sounds as if they’re speaking a different language, and I can’t stop thinking of their three young kids, wondering where they were sleeping tonight. When I laugh them off, Kurt and Marianne start kissing with open mouths. Their tongues twisting and tangling together like wrestling sea slugs as the water turns blue.
Danielle is trying to whistle at them like a construction worker, but the water and tequila have made her lips soft and lazy. She disappears below the surface, then pops up in front of me and bites my calf. “Will you stop being weird and get in?” But her words are blurry and strung together like paper dolls.
“Dani,” I plead, desperate to cut through the music. “Please.”
Her eyes narrow. Even in her inebriated state she feels my judgment. And not just for tonight. There are sleepless nights and arguments and failed tests in those drunk narrow eyes. There are months and years contained in the squint she shoots at me. Reaching down while her unsteady eyes never leave mine, her hands resurface with the yellow and green striped bottoms of her bikini. She wads up the soaked fabric, throws it at me, and it glances off my cheek. “Asshole,” she says, and as the water turns red, she swims back to Kurt and Marianne who are still entwined.
Kurt and Marianne look like the kind of couple with matching barbells in their tongues that clink together when they kiss, the kind of couple who do lines of coke off each other’s stomach when the kids are at grandmas, the kind of couple with spider web tattoos. And maybe this is who they’ve become.
Having seen Danielle’s lead, Marianne also takes off the bottom half of her bikini and while yelling something I can’t hear, throws it at me. But it lands with a slap in the middle of the pool and floats like a dead rabbit on the surface of the water.
As Danielle arrives next to Marianne, Kurt swims over to retrieve three glasses and brings them back to the girls. They seem to have given up on me for the moment, and for that I am thankful.
“Cheers!” Marianne yells.
“To old friends!” Dani follows, and the three of them clink their glasses together. The music continues to suffocate and expand the distance across the pool. I feel my ribs rattling together, and I can only watch as they talk, drink and laugh as though they are half their age with nothing to lose.
Danielle and I flew down to Orange County this morning. Her sister’s baby shower is tomorrow. Her younger sister. Emily, just twenty-four and a couple months from giving Danielle’s parents their first grandchild. A gift that everyone assumed would come from Danielle and me. It’s the first time we have been back to SoCal in several years. Danielle mentioned it to Marianne in an email out of polite obligation, and Marianne insisted we come for dinner.
So here we are.
And through the water that is now yellow, I strain to make out the world below the surface. As they continue to laugh and cheers and throw arms around one another, I struggle to see what pieces of skin are brushing up against other pieces of skin, the water acting as a conduit between the cells of my wife and our two old friends. It is dirty and intimate, and I am a million miles away.
These are not the kind of people we are.
We spent the first hour with drinks, appetizers, two joints, and pictures of their three children, followed by an hour of “oh my God, do you remember when…” mixed with “shit, whatever happened to…” and then we moved on to a dinner of barbequed ribs, corn on the cob, and garlic bread— a dinner eaten entirely with our hands. I don’t know if the pace in which we put away margaritas was due to the excitement of reconnecting with old close friends or the nerves of not connecting with once-close friends. Or maybe the nostalgia was trying to bring back youth. Or maybe we discovered that drinking was the only thing we had in common anymore. It was probably a combination of it all, but whatever the case, it was somewhere between drinks three and four that the bathing suits were brought out, tongues became looser, and we began this plunge into one of those nights that can change your world.
The water is green, and the music is relentless. Guitars, drums, screaming. I want to rip my ears from my head. Where are the neighbors? Who lives in a place with neighbors that tolerate this? I can only watch as Marianne kisses Kurt’s neck and whispers in his ear like a stripper proposing a lap dance. Danielle remains close, too close, and she doesn’t glance in my direction anymore. She watches them intently. She is in the moment, ready to go wherever it pulls her.
If I could just get Danielle’s attention, if I could just talk to her for a moment. Away from Kurt and Marianne, away from her margarita glass, and away from this fucking music, maybe I could save us from this night. I would promise her things. Doctors and specialists and options and onesies with the floppy feet, and she would kiss me and tell me its fine, whatever happens happens, and she will beg to leave. And just when I think that maybe this is possible, the tight fold of limbs between Kurt and Marianne open up, and Danielle floats into them as if they have their own gravitational pull. And they do.
First I watch Danielle and Marianne give each other a short quick peck on the lips. This is followed by a flurry of giggles, and then the peck becomes something longer and slower just as the water transitions to blue. Then all three heads blend into one silhouette, and I can’t make out where one tongue ends and another begins. My torso rises with goose bumps, and my teeth bite hard at the inside of my cheek. There are no longer voices coming from the other end of the pool, just the sloshing of water as bodies shift. And that God-damn fucking music! And just before my temples splatter the backyard with blood and brains, the jumble of flesh disbands and separates.
Marianne whispers something to Danielle, and Kurt laughs a deep hearty laugh that booms beneath the music. Both girls reach for their glass, take a long swig, then turn to face me. And with their breasts just below the surface, and with wet faces, open mouths and wide eyes, they stare hard in my direction.
As the water turns red, Danielle and Marianne slowly make their way toward me, gliding through the water as if being pulled. Their eyes are locked onto mine with a determined seriousness, but their mouths are twisted and bent into smiles that can’t be contained. With one long swipe of her arm, Marianne pushes the inflatable sea turtle out of her path. It bobs and teeters and disappears into the dark end of the pool.
In the background, Kurt hoists his elbows up on the edge. One hand holds his glass while the other punches the air, beating an invisible drum. And as the girls get closer, their toes hit the bottom of the pool, and they rise, now standing. Their naked, wet bodies drip before me, white and shiny-slick.
Danielle, whose body I know better than my own, suddenly looks foreign and thrilling. Her small breasts and sharp nipples look like nothing I’ve seen before. And her flat, empty, stomach leads to the points of her hip bones that might break through her skin at any moment. In the dark of the night, she looks ghost white, and the dark stubble of her pubic hair looks blacker than ever.
Marianne grabs Danielle’s left hand as the water becomes yellow, and their fingers interlock. Marianne is curvy with large, low-hanging tits and big pink nipples. Her stomach looks doughy, and I spot another tattoo, a flower, resting in the crease where her right hip meets her leg. For a moment, the glow from beneath hits her skin just right and I see the long crooked scar above her left breast, and my mind recalls the bruised and broken girl we watched in the hospital for six months.
“Baby,” I implore one more time as they move closer. But my quiet voice is devoured by angry guitars.
Danielle grabs my left foot and runs both her hands up my calf. Her fingertips don’t feel pruned; they’re soft and move easily through the hair on my leg.
Marianne bends down and puts the big toe of my right foot in her mouth while her fingers walk their way up my leg and stop at my knee. Both her tongue and her fingers are rubbing small gentle circles and my heart is racing and my body is responding.
When Marianne removes my toe from her warm mouth, it tingles in the cool of the night. And both girls continue to let their fingers roam, twenty fingers like tentacles crawling and reaching up my thighs. Marianne’s large tits brush against my feet as she moves in closer. And as I wonder and fear what and who will re-emerge tomorrow, the light below the surface shifts to green.
Eric Scot Tryon is a writer from San Francisco. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Glimmer Train, Willow Springs, Pithead Chapel, Los Angeles Review, Pidgeonholes, Monkeybicycle, Sonora Review, Cease, Cows, Berkeley Fiction Review, and elsewhere. Eric is also the Founding Editor of Flash Frog. Find more information at www.ericscottryon.com or on Twitter @EricScotTryon.
Photo: Lee Jeffs/Unsplash
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