Pool Therapyhttps://i2.wp.com/barrenmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/877B8D9A-993A-48AC-91A4-36E372ADBAE0-blackwhite.jpeg?fit=1600%2C1200&ssl=116001200Patricia Q. BidarPatricia Q. Bidarhttps://i2.wp.com/barrenmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/patriciabidar.jpg?fit=96%2C96&ssl=1
The door to the pool has a sign that announces that anyone who is currently experiencing diarrhea or has experienced diarrhea in the past 14 days should not enter the pool. Another sign, inside, announces in separate sparkling letters, “P.O.O.L.C.L.A.S.S.”
A pain in my hip brought me here for pool therapy. I guess I’ve driven past a thousand times without ever seeing it. Eden Hospital Physical Therapy Center is one of those worlds that appears in your life when you need it. It holds a lively and ongoing culture and it holds you for a time, and then when the experience ends, it disappears again. But I don’t want it to disappear. I hate my job, and there is plenty of trouble at home, too.
The pool manager bears a resemblance to the American comic Dave Chapelle. His voice, however, is exactly like Chapelle’s. The same exaggeratedly blasé delivery. Al, his name is. But when I point at the photo of a young Billie Holliday on his desk, saying I have the same photo in my office, he just looks at me as if I am out of my mind.
A physical therapist named Tanya has been assigned to me. When I am suited up and waiting on the bench beside the hot and fragrant pool, she rattles in with the beige cart that appears to serve as a gigantic laptop holder. I slip into the pool. Tanya is trim and fit, with mesmerizing muscled legs that stand before my eyes as I await her instructions.
Meanwhile, Al directs the elderly aquasize class in his drawl, sometimes starting a new series of reps with, “bicycle tiiiime,” or “inner tube tiiiime.”
Tanya puts me through my paces. I warm up by walking six short laps. Part of which is walking alongside these ladies. Other times I am weaving in and out of their ranks as I sidestep or backwards walk. It is a little like being in an Alexander Payne film.
Al always has music going, and often the talk is of the tunes and whether the ladies the songs. Today the hit parade includes Dionne, the Platters, Otis Redding, Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, and Aretha Franklin. The Drifters.
The genial old women sometimes forget to listen to what Al is saying or to exercise at all. They are black and white ladies and everyone gets along. That’s my town for you.
Tanya has me do are bicycling, scissors, and “Nordic track” in the deep end, one of those bright foam noodles holding me aloft. When I zen out, the current carries me back near the shallow end, where the class members are.
I am finished, but the class continues on. The changing room is piled with ladies’ sandals, shampoos, tote bags. Tacked on the wall is an SPCA calendar whose August cover models are rats. It is December. On the ledge before the mirror sits a greeting card from someone named June that says she misses everyone.
I am pretty sure pool therapy isn’t helping me. Still, I never want to leave. Now I look forward to being old. I could readily imagine Al’s pool class becoming my social scene and only activity filling my day. It would be enough.
At work I will say under my breath, “Sandwich tiiiiime. Or “Email tiiiime. Or humiliation tiiiime.” I never rinse the chlorine off of me before heading to work, because the smell of it on my skin is such a comfort. I dip my head to take it in; I dry my cheeks.
Patricia Q. Bidar is a native of San Pedro, CA with family roots in New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah. She is an alum of the UC Davis Graduate Writing Program and a former fiction editor at Northwest Review. Her stories have appeared in SmokeLong Quarterly, The Pinch, Little Patuxent Review, Wigleaf, and Pithead Chapel. Patricia lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her DJ husband. When she is not writing fiction, she ghostwrites for progressive nonprofit organizations.