Life without Risk
"Do you come here often?" At least he didn't say that to her.
She lay on the outdoor tanning rack one over from him. Her head was turned away from him, but he knew she wasn't asleep. Her right hand moved about her now and then, the fingers touching her neck, then lazily moving to her breasts, glancing past the breasts, then to her face, midriff, dangling there with minor sensuality, a little nudge, a little tapping, then back up to her neck again, then the arms stretched out restless by her side.
"I haven't seen you here before," Harry said to her quietly. He half-hoped she wouldn't answer.
"Me?" she said, turning over to face him. "I've been here."
He knew that, wondered why he'd lied. He'd seen her here at least twice before, no, probably three times. Strutting around, deep-tanned (was she part Hawaiian? Mexican?), ample-breasted, black hair, so-so face, baby-fat belly too big, but sensuous. Like a woman four months pregnant.
"Oh," he said, as though drowsy. "Well, you sure got a tan." Before she could answer, he said, "I'm workin' on one. Only been doing this two weeks, about."
"I've seen you," she said, dead-panned. Her face wasn't bad, just somewhat stolid. But her body, that was swell to him. She walked like a stripper, knowing everybody, every man at least, here at the swimming pool, they all were watching her, out of the corner of the eye, at least. A walking baby-maker. Proud of it.
"Well, you been in there, in the pool?" he asked. He sat up carefully, hoped she couldn't see his stiffness, near dizziness. "I didn't see you in the pool."
"Yeah," she said, stone-faced. "You?"
"Yeah, sure, I was in there a half hour or so. Laps. You know. Tryin' to get in shape." And to lose thirty pounds, he didn't say, so he'd look good enough maybe, to be talking to a semi-gorgeous babe like her, too young to be his daughter, and he didn't tell her, I have to do this, the dreadful boring miserable stupid lap-swimming to get the blood pressure down, and help the arthritic right knee, and to get circulation back in the slightly, these days, numbed feet. And, he didn't tell her, to get the juice back in his mid-section so he could dare to accost a babe like her out here in public, all the real studs afraid, or too wise, to do likewise.
"Yeah, I seen you," she said. Her voice was accented slightly. She didn't talk like a Valley Girl. So far. She hadn't said "hella this" or "hella that" yet. She hadn't ended every sentence with an upward swoop of pseudo question intonation.
"Seen you." How many people said "seen" these days? Half the population, probably.
"Well, I seen you, too!" he thought of saying, but said, "That woman over therein the pool?that splashing?she's driving me crazy, that splashing."
"Yeah," the young woman said. "She splashes."
The splashing was loud and constant. A blonde woman who talked angrily to herselfhe could never quite get the wordsshe was splashing madly with her feet, up, down, up down, eight hits a second, as she rested her hands on the small plastic float in front of her.
"It drives me bugs," he said. "I don't know why."
"Yeah," the young woman said.
He had never seen a face with less expression. He wanted to slap his hands to see if she'd blink. Stillthat body. Lying there five feet away, luscious, moving almost imperceptibly before his eyes, a sensual minute vibration. A man would get in a lot trouble for that. Even an old man.
At least she was still looking at him. Waiting. Politely? At least she hadn't turned away, rested her head on the other side. Even flat on her back, no, half-turned to him, those breaststhey had a life of their own. Wasn't it true? he'd read that, there are thinking cells, almost like brain cells, all over the body. That breast there, those glorious, plump, bursting mounds there, they obviously had a mind of their own. They weren't wordless like the rest of her. They were speaking volumes, shouting, singing up a storm, laughing, giggling.
"I get lonely sometimes," she said quietly.
"What?" He couldn't believe she said that.
"I get lonely. You?"
"Lonely? Oh sure," he said, confused, trying to cover up his elation. "All the time. But I tell you, you want to know where I feel most lonely?"
"In the pool there," Harry pointed. "Goin' up and back in that lane. Up the middle, then back on the side. Middle, side. Middle, side. I can't think of the past, past times. Or of dreams. The future? Because I'm in that damn water. I got to kick and move my arms, or I sink! Only one lifeguard there. That girl. Still in high school, I guess. Bet she never, however long she's done that, I bet she never, once, saved anybody."
The girl looked at him. Not solemnly, exactly. More like she was a deaf mute, couldn't read lips.
"You wanna do me?" she asked.
"What?" he said, startled.
"They tryin' to sue me," she said.
"Yeah, they doin' me up brown." She grinned, for the first time. "Doing me up brown," she said. "That's funny. I already am brown." Then she frowned. "Why would they sue me? Can you imagine that? Me?"
"You? Why no. Not you, absolutely not. Sue you? How's that? Somebody suing you? Why would they do that?"
"Oh, you know," she said.
"No. Really," he said.
"Me, no really, I don't. Suing you? Why would anyone sue you?"
"You don't know?"
"No! Really, I don't. I don't know. There's no way I could know."
"Think about it," she said. She sat up gracefully, put her chin on her bare knees.
He could now imagine exactly how she would look naked. The fruitful breasts were half exposed now as she was leaning over that way. Between her legs he could see the plump belly, the sensuous thighs, the now delineated pubic area.
"For debts?" he suggested huskily. He felt his groin in his throat.
"Debts? No, no! Not debts. Oh no, I got no debts. Oh maybe a little. A little. Guess again. Actually, you know, don't you?"
Her gaze was so certain he thought perhaps he did know, he must've forgotten, it was apparently obvious. How could he forget?
"They're blackmailing you," he burst out, trying to let his unconscious talk.
"Blackmailing? Me?" she said seemingly astounded. "Me? Blackmail? Oh, that's funny. You're just kidding with me, right? You know. Think about it. You know."
"Me? I don't know. Rape?" he said. "You raped somebody?"
She decided to think it was funny.
"No, really," she said. "You know. Think about it. Look at me. Nolook at me. Me, now. Right here. Look."
His mind went blank. The sun was too hot on his shoulders. He'd been out here past his fifteen minutes in the sun. This was the way he always got burned.
"I don't know"
"Look at me," she commanded.
"Okay." He looked at her. Suddenly, mindless, he only wanted to crawl over the few feet, kiss her on her full lips.
"Love," he muttered. "It's about love."
"Closer," she said. "You're getting closer."
He only heard the word, 'closer'; actually started stupidly to move toward her, his bad knee already shrieking as it hit the concrete
He stopped halfway. "You bit somebody," he said stupidly.
She began immediately to laugh, then covered her mouth, then leaned backward, laughing uncontrollably, her pubic area elevated inches above the rack.
"No, no, no, no" she sputtered, "you funny man..."
For an instant he thought he recognized her accent.
"Go back!" she commanded him as she sat back up, giggling. "Naughty, naughty boy, oh you're naughty!"
A baby began crying. To his astonishment the man realized there was a baby over there on the third rack, a dozen feet away. It was in some kind of a shelterno, a car seat? Some kind of buggy, with the wheels folded under? A baby, crying.
"Oh, you made me laugh, now she's awake," the young woman said to him with amused reproach. She got up, went to the child, comforted it. The man couldn't see the baby. The back of the royal-blue shelter hid the baby from the sun and from his view.
After a minute, the woman came back, finger to her lips. "Shhh..." she motioned to the man.
He had retreated back to his rack, sat there now, feeling the burn spreading on his back.
"You know," she whispered in her strange accent, "you're in bad trouble now. First, you pretend you don't know why I'm being sued. Then you wake up the baby. And probably you are very naughty in other ways, too," she whispered with mock seriousness. "I think maybe you be a really, really naughty man!"
I have done stupid things all my life, Harry thought desperately, because of women. I have no sense in this, in things like this. I don't know why she is being sued. I didn't know she had a baby. Why do they always have a baby? Why can't we just do the natural thing? Only here, it would be unnatural. An old man with a young woman. A girl.
"No fool like an old fool," he said out loud, unexpectedly.
"Shhhh!" she cautioned.
He sat there, chastised, burn real now on his shoulders and back.
"Alienation," she whispered.
He stared at her blankly.
"Alienation?" he finally said.
"Of affection," she whispered.
"Affection," he echoed quietly. The words were meaningless. Like in a foreign language he'd never heard.
She smiled at him. It was strange, he thought. That face could smile.
"Well" she said, "shall we go to my place?"
He looked at her, waited for a sign. Maybe from his unconscious. Or his heart. It had been seven years now, lonely.
"Wellno, I guess," he said finally. "I guess not. But thank you. I sure do thank you."
"No hard feelings?" she whispered, as though somewhat relieved.
"No. Not at all. Oh no," he said.
"Well" she said, "see you."
She got up easily, went over to the baby, picked up the little shelter gracefully, walked easily toward the gate.
Like an Indian, he thought, a graceful savage in the jungle, that sweet dear belly, the rolling sensual movement of dear sweet legs, tanned to perfection, her heart in her body, rapture.
Which brought it down to a simple question. Would he come back here tomorrow?
Probably. What was life without risk?