Kentucky kinfolk and I met the Teenage Indian God.
I don't know why practically everybody I knew was at the Longview Park pool:
Peter, the only Asian boy in school, who would participate in the streaking adventure next year.
My best friend Bill.
Dan, the boy I met in the girls' locker room, who had dirty blond hair and a gay-coded lilt to his voice (thought I didn't know what gay meant yet)
My brother and his best friend.
It was one of those bitingly hot, oppressive days that you sometime get in the Midwest, where the heat literally sizzles in the air and you can't walk more than a few steps without getting soaked. The pool was crowded with glistening bodies, mostly high schoolers, breathtakingly beautiful although dangerous – a bounce in the step or a lilt in the voice might draw their wrath, and result in a shove at a girl or a forced swimsuit removal. I was standing with Dan at the four foot mark, where the bottom slid abruptly into the deep end, relishing the feeling of endless space. But when I bobbed under the water for a moment, Dan was gone!
The pool had been noisy, with screams and laughter and fifty gossiping or bragging voices, but now it was so quiet that I could hear David Cassidy singing “I Think I Love You” from far away, maybe from a transistor radio over by the bath house, or farther afield, from someone’s picnic on the grass that sloped down the Bluffs. But the song hadn’t played regularly on the radio for years! I had a strange feeling of being unstuck in time, as if I had tripped accidentally into the past like Barnabas Collins on Dark Shadows.
I pulled myself out of the pool. The damp concrete was hot beneath my bare feet, the air thick and heavy, smelling of chlorine and suntan oil and Raid, the spray used to keep bugs off. I walked around the shallow end, past the baby pool, and then along the western perimeter, where a chain link fence looked down the Bluffs. Then I saw a churning in the deep end, like a cauldron boiling.
Some Mean Boys were trying to drown Dan!
Why wasn’t the lifeguard intervening? Or any of the adults? Why were they all pretending not to notice?
I dove into the hot, frothing water to rescue him myself.
I don't know if the rest was a dream or not: I saw Dan's torso, his shoulders, his tousled dirty-blond hair -- he was kissing Bill! Their arms and legs were intertwined, their bodies were pressing rhythmically together, and they were kissing!
Writhing with jealousy, I tried to pull them apart. Dan pushed me away with his hand. I head a sickening thud.
The next thing I remember is lying on the concrete at poolside, a hard-muscled guy, sopping wet, kneeling over me, holding my eye open. He had blood on his hands. I found out later that he was a medical student who had fished me out of the water and performed first aid.
An emergency room visit and five stitches later, I was back home in bed, eating ice cream.
They told me that I tried diving off the edge of the pool and doing a somersault, but I miscalculated and hit the side.
That makes more sense than what I remember, unconscious fears and anxieties bubbling to the surface when I didn't even know the word "gay" yet.
Afterwards I rarely went into a swimming pool again, and I always jumped in feet first -- no diving. And Bill and I grew even more distant. The last time I visited his house was for a Halloween party in 10th grade, and I spent most of the evening talking to his big brother Mike, who used to call me "Bud" and drive us places.
Bill's story concludes here, with the Kissing Bandit.
The story of Dan continues here, when we decide to escape to Saudi Arabia.