Originally published Thursday, 11 July 2013.
Do you have your pool pass, honey?
She spoke to me, mid-break in conversation, over the edge of her cell phone.
Silently, dutifully, I held up the green plastic plastic pass that dangled from my keys that gave me access to my apartment complex's pool.
Thank you, sweetheart, was all she said. And then flawlessly returned to her phone conversation.
My smile faded. And I rolled my eyes as I agitatedly jumped into the cool blue, leaving the spine-cracked and frayed copy of Bob Goff's Love Does (read it!) by the water's ledge.
I had already made up my mind about her before we even met. She was a pool Nazi. A babysitter. Paid–not to lifeguard–but to gate-guard, it seemed. And to talk on her cell phone.
And I was the only one in the whole pool.
My first impression of her came from my roommate that same night, during our weekly dinners at the local Mexican restaurant; just up the street from our little home we call the Glitter Palace.
Our conversations at the weekly dinners are similar, but simultaneously unpredictable. We typically touch on and listen to each others' dreams and heartbreaks from the week before. M, always with her chicken soft tacos and guacamole, and me with my beef tacos and side of queso.
Both of holding onto the base of our with small (or medium, depending on what kind of weeks we've had) margaritas on the rocks with lots of salt on the rim, keeping them to the right of our dinner plates like fashion accessories.
We love this place, because he servers will always ask, Do you want more margaritas, Senoritas?, after we've already received our checks.
And we'll always say, No. No, thank you. We both have to work tomorrow.
Nine times out of ten--much to our delight--the waiter will come with two fresh glasses for us. We love it. Only, we almost had to stop going once they all started calling us the Margarita Girls and began friend-requesting us on Facebook.
I was the one who brought up the grumbling subject that night. About how ridiculous it is for us to need a pool pass in our tiny neighborhood, in a pool that no one seems to visit but the two of us. How silly it was that a portion of our rent money undoubtedly goes to a woman who has too much power and not enough responsibility.
It's funny the things I let get under my skin, but that's where I was that night. Needing a scapegoat to transfer my little frustrations upon. And that's why I wanted to be annoyed with the pool Nazi that night.
But, when she finished her phone conversation, I found it a little too hard to read and pretend she wasn't there, just watching the gate. She got up from the white plastic chair and tested the PH levels of the water. And I felt my my extroverted-ness bubbling to the surface of the chlorine-blue water.
How long have you worked here? I asked.
She motioned that she couldn't hear me, so I yelled out my question again.
HOW. LONG. HAVE. YOU. WORKED. HERE?
This was her first summer working here.
We made our introductions. Her name was Ginger, but I could call her Gingersnap. She was in her sixties, and had a voice like Debbie Reynolds in Singin' in the Rain.
You have a beautiful smile, she said to me. Hold onto that, honey.
She was wearing a two-piece swimsuit, entailing a white strapless bikini top, and a white visor. Her skin was almost a leathery-brown. We talked about our lives, and our families. I told her that I had a friend making me dinner that evening.
He's making you dinner? Hold onto him, honey, she said.
Everything, it seemed, was something I needed to hold on to.
But it made sense when she told me about the recent loss of her husband. How she used to be an artist but couldn't pick up a brush or drawing pencil since she went suddenly from wife to widow.
She couldn't hold on to those things.
It made sense that she held on to a job sitting by a pool all summer, in the midst of her heartbreak and loss. It made sense that she urged me to hold on while I can.
It also made sense that I would be forced to learn that night how to let go of the small, petty things in my life and be forced to take a hint from the title of the book I carried with me.
Humbling, humbling, humbling.
Humbling to see how I needed to let go of a prejudice--however trite and seemingly inconsequential--and hold on to the things that matter.
And as I waded back and forth in the water that night, I thought that maybe this will be the summer that I will remember as the one I learned to both hold on and let go. The summer I spent at the pool, visiting my new friend who just simply watched the gate and listen.
Have y'all ever experienced a moment like this? Feel free to share below!