It had been a hot day - in fact this whole month of June had been hot. Each morning she would wake up, slip on a sundress before heading down to the kitchen to get a glass full of iced tea, then slip on a pair of worn out ballet flats and head out the door with the glass in hand and a small purse pulled across her body. Once outside, without fail, the heavy air would press down on her and the night’s moisture would burn off the asphalt; she could see it hang in the air as a mist as she made her way across town to visit her grandmother.
At some point in the day she wound up, as usual and invariably, at her friend’s house. He lived in a house with green siding and navy blue shutters and his mother had lunch laid out for them when she arrived. This was this summer’s routine.
Around six or seven in the evening, other friends would show up. It seemed to only get hotter as the day progressed, the setting sun was not the relief it should have been. They were a group of seven all together and around ten o’clock, when it was certain that it would only get more humid as the night wore on; a boy she graduated high school with, though he had never joined them at this house before, suggested they go to his house to swim.
No one thought twice, they all piled into two small cars and headed to his house out in the country. Once they were all standing on the deck of the pool, laughing and joking in the dark, oppressive night, she looked over to her best friend - a girl slightly shorter than herself with doe eyes and a sardonic smile - and softly commented that she didn’t have her bathing suit.
“Gail, you dork, take your dress off and jump in!” Sam was already taking off her shirt and all of the boys had already stripped down to their underwear and jumped in. Looking at the outline of Gail’s face in the dark, Sam smiled and sighed, “I would be worried about what I look like too, but it’s too dark to see and we’ll be in water on top of it. You’ll feel better in the water.”
Off came her shorts, and the girl whipped off her dress, not allowing herself to be self-conscious. They reached for each other’s hands, squeezing at the same time. Neither of them ever spoke to the other of their self-image issues, not the physical ones anyway. It comforted them that they could do this for the other, that the simple act of jumping unseen into a swimming pool in their underwear would give them the confidence to see themselves in a positive light.
As soon as Gail hit the water the heat of the day was forgotten; she broke the surface with a sharp intake of breath and wide eyes. One of the boys came over while the others laughed at the two girls that underestimated how cold the water of an unheated pool could be.
He grabbed her wrist and hugged her to him, pressing his nose into her hair, “Quit hugging the sides, you worry too much about what you look like. You have no idea what you look like.”
The only thing she could make out was a smile on his face and the reflection of the waning moon in his eyes. She smiled back and determined that she could try to understand what he was saying.