…management said they’d open the pool when they thought we deserved it. When they thought we’d behave. So in ’97, the pool stayed closed while the sun clung to us like oil sheen. It lacquered our parents’ cars. Their fingertips danced away from the searing door handles as they piled inside for work. For Albertsons. For someplace in the city where it was cooler and kids didn’t scream so damn loud. They left us behind, taking the only air conditioning we had with them.
….it was too hot to sit still and too hot to keep living the way we were. The disquiet drove us up and down then on and off front stoops. We clamored inside our stifling apartments where the ceiling fans whirred overhead like jet turbines — whoosh whoosh whoosh. We sucked in the warm air until our workaholic fathers kicked us back outside until the streetlights came on.
….gathered in the parking lot beneath the lone magnolia, we ate chili mango lollipops, Now & Laters, Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. We guzzled it all down with Sprite and screamed when our throats burned. The boys watched us girls and fanned their sweaty T-shirts. An airing out of lust and heat. They eased forward, arms loose and legs long, as they eyed our shorts and tank tops.
…the boys chased us. Tag. Slap. Let’s See Who Runs the Fastest. Drivers passing by slowed to say what’s good. Montell Jordan and Skee-Lo bumped from their speakers. The black asphalt cooked our feet through our Payless shoes, so we ran faster. Sweat trickled down our brows. It stung our eyes with salt and yesterday’s grievances. It ran slick in the curves of our backs, bringing our Kmart shirts in closer union to our bodies. We stank. Without a pool we didn’t know how to swim in anyway, we begged our single mothers and big sisters for permission. To get wet. To be loud. To play with our fake guns outside.
…we cooled ourselves off with water fights. Boys versus girls, the hunters and the hunted like all the times we played Hide and Go Get It. The boys gripped their neon green and yellow squirt guns sideways and pointed them at us girls. They were Bad Boys, Dead Presidents, and Don’t Be a Menace. They imitated Smokey in Friday. Break yo’self, fool! The cheap plastic creaked and threatened to shatter in their too-tight fists.
…we drained the whole world with our water guns, refilling them again and again. At sunset, the air thinned and cooled. We dried off with two-hand touch football and gossip on the stoops. We scattered when the lights came on. We’d take our punishments, sleep, and do it all again every day until September.
…in ’98, we will behave. Management will open the pool and families will post up poolside, trash talking and drinking all day long. The boys will invite the girls to hang out in the Jacuzzi. They will lick their peach fuzzed lips like LL Cool J and watch the girls sashay toward the bubbling water. The boys will have already started ranking us girls. Only the naive in our group, the ones still trapped in innocence, the ones who wear one-piece bathing suits and still think about Super Soakers, will actually jump in the pool, dip below the water’s surface, and swim.