I was taking my time, shuffling through my suitcase, trying to figure out my strategy. Two of my three boys and my husband were already at the hotel pool for some night swimming. My middle son, Michael, and I were milking it. He hadn’t decided if he wanted to have a stomach ache, and I hadn’t figured out how to get out of going to the pool.
I usually never even bring a suit, since I have a general dislike of all things water – pools, beaches, my body in a bathing suit. But, for some reason, on the same mini-vacation where I had forgotten to get a pedicure or bring a razor, I had shoved a suit in my bag last minute. Once Michael declared himself fit to swim, I had to make a choice – to wear or not to wear. After some mental tennis, I decided against the suit, instead throwing on a cover-up dress to give the illusion of pool ready, without showing any reality.
Once there, I immediately remembered why I hate indoor pools; the chemical smell, the contrived heat, my children playing in a tank of wet doom. I could never find any true comfort, just an agitated impatience. I sat next to my husband and checked my phone. It was already after 8pm. That was the gift of night swimming. It didn’t last too long.
We rotated our eyes from boy to boy to boy; one a good swimmer, one decent and one new. It was monkey in the middle. One. Two. Three. One – My oldest, playing with a blue ball in the middle of the pool; pushing it under water, then watching it shoot up out of the water and retrieving it. Two – Just a bobbing blonde head and orange goggles, doggie paddling toward the far edge. Three – Right in front of us by the stairs, practicing his swimming.
“Mommy, watch this!” he squealed, his dark curls matted against his head, his dark eyes alight with excitement. Dramatically, he climbed up two of the steps, readying himself, and with one mischievous look back at me, jumped.
That’s when the lights went out. Complete and utter darkness engulfed the pool area.
I stood, both immediately and in slow motion, surrounded by blackness and the unreal echo of water and people freaking out. Mute and drowning in fear, I reached for my husband. My worst nightmare was this second. My children were in that pool. We needed to jump in. Now.
But before we could, the lights flicked back on.
My heart pounded wildly, and my head whipped around. One – Still in the center of the pool. Two – Hanging on to the edge. Three – On the steps.
The whole thing lasted maybe five seconds. Probably less. I took a deep breath, relief filling my lungs. Then, finding my voice, screamed for my kids to get out of the water.
I knew going to the pool was a mistake.