Chiara asks me to go with her to the apartment complex’s hot tub sometimes. She calls it the jacuzzi, which she pronounces “Yah-Kootsie.” I usually decline for one of several stock reasons: that it will be crowded, that it is too late, that I just showered.
Last night, feeling a bit down on myself for not having left the house all day, I accepted her offer on the condition that, if it were full of assholes, we could leave.
I should have been more specific.
We arrived and thought that we were alone. The lights of the hot tub itself were off and none of the usual flotsam associated with pool-goers was to be found on any of the chaise-longues (sunscreen, wadded t-shirts, sunglasses, Da Vinci Codes).
It was only after we began our slide into the burbling water that we realized we had company - hiding, submerged nearly to the head, in the shadows on the far side of the hot tub.
It being too late to back out with any kind of plausible excuse, I said good evening and slurped over to the far side of the hot tub with Chiara, arranging myself so as to have my back more or less toward the gentleman. He seemed nice enough, but who needs conversation with that kind Heffnerian overtones?
This guy clearly didn’t see it that way.
Guy: “No swimming for you two, huh?”
Chiara: “No, it’s cold!”
Guy, looking at me now: “Well, you made the right choice. A sign of maturity, I’d say.”
A pregnant pause.
Me: “It is pleasant to sit in warm water, isn’t it?”
So now I think I’ve awkwarded my way out of any further smalltalk. I even begin - as a sort of preemptive strike against any further chattiness - a conversation with Chiara about quotidian and personal details of our life together that could not possibly invite third party commentary.
I bring up the houseplants and my earlier visit to the nursery in search of the large indoor palm tree I am still angling for. I tell Chiara about how, after I had asked five or fifteen well thought out and important questions of the woman helping me (“How much water should I give it?” “How much light does it need?” “Does it have a smell when you cut the leaves?“), she rather snarkily replied that there were “really no such things as indoor plants.”
The man from the other side of the Jacuzzi, his face shaded by the night like a sweaty Bloefeld, volunteered that he bought an indoor plant just the other day, at Costco.
I nodded. But thinking he may not have seen me, I said “yeah?”
Guy: “It should live for a hundred years.”
Guy: “Wanna know why?”
Guy: “It’s a silk plant.”
And now I want him to die.
Luckily, just then some kids jump into the hot tub and distract the guy. “Is it better in here?” he asks of them.
Kid 1: “Yeah.”
Guy: “How much better?”
Kid 1: “Like 110%
Guy: “And it took you how many years to figure that out?”
Kid 1: “Um, like fourteen.”
Guy: “And how old are you?”
Kid 1: “Sixteen.”
And now I kinda love this kid.
Guy, to Kid 1: “Got your permit yet?”
Kid 1: “Yeah. Two months ago.”
Guy: “See any bad drivers?”
Kid 1: “Yeah. I saw some today!”
Guy: “That’s good. Because if you don’t see any. . .you’re probably the bad driver.”
I embark on a description to Chiara of my genuine respect for the gardening staff here at the complex. Some of their birds of paradise are twelve feet tall and thriving. Ours is slowly dying after having spent six months in some kind of botanic coma; ours always looks like it is about to cough.
Anyway, the fucking guy has overheard me and smells blood in the water again. The kids have gone back to the main pool.
Guy: “You ever been in the model units they got here?”
Me: “No, why?”
Guy: “They have plants in those that never die.”
Me: “Why’s that?”
Guy: “They’re silk.”
Me: “You got me.”
And I got out of the water and went to the main pool to swim angry laps.
The only other notable moment from last night was, after the guy had finally left, a young couple arrived at the hot tub. They were comprised of a handsome frat guy type with a shaved chest and his curiously overweight and frumpy girlfriend who carried all of their stuff.
The frat guy gets in to the hot tub and she hands him a beer. He sits there, drinking it while she perches on a pool chair on the other side of the Jacuzzi.
They do not speak to one another until he asks her to give him another beer and she complies. She is not drinking. I think he has agreed to sleep with her out of pity or as some last-ditch attempt to thwart his onrushing homosexuality. I imagine he propositioned her, but insisted that she provide the atmosphere.
By which he meant Corona.
I would have liked to stay to see what became of them, but the hot tub had more or less fizzled out and my enjoyment was prunier than my hands.