Bodies of Water
From my bedroom window, I watched Dorothea climb the tall, wooden fence and descend barefoot into our backyard. My mother asked if she needed something. There was no response since Dorothea was a mute. I liked Dorothea, and she seemed to like me. I used to wave at her when she took her evening jog through the neighborhood. In response, she’d smile a big, innocent smile and gesture comically with both hands. There were rumors that she was somehow special needs or “simple” as my dad put it. I wasn’t convinced of this, mostly because I had a crush on her and compounding my sexual feelings toward her with any thought of mental disability was disturbing to my seventeen-year-old psyche.
Dorothea interrupted a yearly celebration of the opening of our pool. This was the first time since middle school that I was home to witness it. I usually spent weekends at Carrie’s house, but she was with Chase like she’d been every Saturday night for two months, ever since I told her that I loved her. That was also the last time we kissed—not a coincidence.
Laughter and loud noises brought my focus back to the backyard where Dorothea was lifting her dress over her head. She was without a bra or panties. Her long feet padded across the lawn, her attention focused on the pool.
Neighbors called out to her, my mother’s voice being the loudest of the group, “Excuse me, you can’t just stomp through my yard and get naked. I will call the police.”
Dorothea approached the edge of the pool, mesmerized by the water. With the lights around the pool illuminating her tan body, I saw that her hips and breasts were wider than her clothes suggested. All of the adults made their way from under the canvas canopy and approached the pool with caution. It was as if a bomb greeted them on the other side of the patio rather than a pair of bare breasts, the commotion and noise they were making; shouts and gasps breezed in through the crack between my window and the sill.
A couple of the men tried to snap photos with their phones before their wives intervened. Everyone stopped at the steps of the pool, no one dared move closer. From above, it looked like a standoff. Then with an incredibly large, flat foot, Dorothea slapped the top of the water with rabbit swiftness, shooting plumes of water with remarkable accuracy to splash the faces of my parents and the neighbors. Dorothea’s head tilted up toward the barely visible moon, she laughed and it sounded like a waterfall smashing against large rocks.
Dorothea placed both feet in the pool, balancing on the surface before sinking in to her thighs; her crotch obscured by a thick patch of hair. Though she stood still, the water crawled up her body, streaming upwards over her stomach and climbing the underside of her breasts. The water was attracted to her, wanted to become a part of her; it moved over her form like a living, second skin. The adults fanned out around the pool; I wanted to be as close to her as they were, as close to her as the water.
My hand slid inside the waistband of my pajamas. James Sheltzky and his wife Destiny peeled off their respective swimsuits. Holding hands, they descended the stairs into the glowing blue, middle-age spreads exposed to the night air. Dorothea lowered her head into the water. The outline of her body glided beneath the surface like the shadow of a plane traveling overhead, more silhouette than solid. She swam in a figure-eight around their calves before emerging in front of them with minimal splash, the water merely a curtain to be pulled aside. With the couple standing in front of her, she smiled at them and held out her hands. Next, the Coreys, Roy and Bev, splashed clumsily down the stairs, shedding fabric along the way.
Steam swirled around their bodies. While balancing on the edge of a desk chair, I enjoyed my own warmth, forehead pressed against the window. I couldn’t help but think of Carrie and the times it had been her hands instead of mine. While my thoughts distracted me, everyone had jumped into the pool, hands traversing over taut, wet flesh. I knew that my parents were somewhere down there too, in the water, naked, with all of the neighbors and Dorothea.
That should have been deterrent enough; it should have made me stop what I was doing, pull my hands from my underwear with shame, and vomit. However, it was hard to identify and extricate my parent’s limbs from the tangle of soaked skin, and admittedly, I didn’t try very hard. There was something in my pulse, a feeling in my held breath that told me that I would never be okay if I didn’t finish. With my mind and hand so occupied, I didn’t dare stop to answer my cell phone. It was Carrie’s ringtone: three high-pitched meows followed by a hiss. I knew the only time she called on the weekend was if Chase cancelled plans or she was pissed at him. I let the phone ring through two calls, focusing on Dorothea. Blocking out all the other bodies, I stared at Dorothea’s face and dripping lips. Her stare met mine through the glass. She was watching me in my room, seeing my breaths moisten the pane, and she smiled knowing that it was for her.
With the skill and manufactured aim of a fountain, she spat a stream of water in a perfect arc that splashed my window. Drops of water ran down the outside pane and collected on the wood. With the decisiveness of a river, the small puddle of water rushed over the sill, landed on my wrist and traveled up my hand. And Dorothea was there with me, inside me, when I lost it.
Martin Jennings has earned an MFA from Spalding University. His work has appeared in Five on the Fifth and is forthcoming in MilkFist Magazine and from Fiction Attic Press. He lives in Louisville, KY.