At the pool I like to hold my breath and submerse myself as long as possible. The lights cast thick rays that make every particle of dead skin and shed hair dance slowly and with grace.
One thing you must understand before this story begins is that the underwater is the loneliest of places. The silence is complete. There is no air, no lasting warmth, and no company to be had.
Down here, near the bottom of the pool, a few strands of stray hair swayed gently in the far away light. They danced for me like so many feathers in the breeze, ever so softly. I dove many times to witness this spectacle. My heart could not get its fill of the slow, delicate motions. It is loneliness, you must understand, that drove me to pocket the floating strands of hair. And smuggled inside my bathing suit pocket, they remained, for many obvious reasons, all the way home.
At home, I hurriedly withdrew the hairs from their hiding place. I was excited, you’ll understand. When I saw them, however, I froze. I could suddenly not understand the impulse that had come over me. My hand came out like a hand out of a clogged drain, the soggy long hairs stuck to my skin like mud. And, suddenly, there I stood holding the dead dangling hair from the tips of my fingers. As far away as possible. I had effectively murdered grace. I had acted like a cat, trying to preserve the joy of a lively mouse by killing it with deathly claws.
Anyway. As the adult that I am, I set about resolving the mess that I had clumsily created. My first idea was to restore some beauty and life into the clump of damp hair. I felt a killer on the loose. Truly. I felt an embalmer. Trying to simulate life on my lifeless victim with red powder on the cheeks. Despite my feeling revolted, I lathered and rinsed the strands of hair. Then lathered and rinsed again. As a woman would. As the woman to whom these belonged would. For the fact that these were women hair was so undeniable that I hid the question deep inside a dark corner of my mind. Guarded against any further doubt. Indisputable.
As the clump finally dried under the heat of my wife’s hair dryer, as it acquired volume, it came to bear resemblance to a proper lock of hair. Similar in fact to one true lovers of old might have given each other upon parting indefinitely.
That night, I kept the lock under my pillow because, well, often the worst idea, turns out to be the best one. Or in my case, the only one. I gave my wife a quick peck on the cheek and turned to the opposite side to shut the light. A far from subtle move I know, but contrary to what the television might have to say about the subject, being married is a battle fought day by day. And therefore, neither of us would presume to read too much into the smallest signs, especially at the very moment before the daily battle is almost won.
The next day, at work, with the lock in my chest pocket near my heart, I spent my hours trying to muster love. For not only had the hairs looked alive under water, I had also felt love for them. I felt it was now my duty to love the lock of pool hair, as I had then, in order to truly right my wrong.
The whole ordeal began to feel an awful lot like an affair. But my resolve was strong. I dug deep to infuse the imaginary owneress of the lock with feelings that I ashamedly burrowed from those which I would otherwise reserve exclusively for my wife. Out of fairness to my wife, I tried to imagine her to be as ugly as a chimp, and tried associating feelings of pity-love with her, to lessen the betrayal. It was of no use. Maybe the water was right. Maybe I was lonely after all, for the more I thought of this mystery woman, the more caring and attentive and funny and smart she became.
To make matters worse, at the pool that evening, I found myself looking for her in the crowd of bustling bathers. My hand would come down every so often to caress the lock through my pocket. For a while every new woman I saw was her, and how my heart would leap! None were her, however, for none had long red hair.
To pass the time I dove and took out the lock so as to see it dance a little in the water. All the while hoping that I would resurface and find her there. I did this multiple times, careful not to let others see my pearl, the focus of my hopeful heart.
Eventually, to my heart-fluttering horror, the owneress did manifested herself. From the corner of my eye I saw a bright yellow swim cap come off revealing beautiful long red hair. My hand instinctively reached into my pocket, for there was no doubt that this was she. The woman I sought. I swam closer with heart racing.
And there I stood staring blindly into the hairy face of a man. My hand immediately went to my mouth, and I hid the lock there. I was deeply embarrassed, but mostly I felt a strong, overwhelming nausea.
Before I knew it, I had reached out and started shoving handfuls of his hair into my mouth. Trying to swallow it as deep as possible to fill the hollow that loneliness had carved within me. After a few mouthfuls though, I knew that something was terribly wrong. My skin was turning blue and I felt this terrible heat coming from my chest. And anger. I could think of nothing to do to erase this newfound anger, so, with my fingers and nails, I clawed ferociously at his face. And he at mine. The skin tore away with little resistance, like wet clay. Underneath there was this hard material, like the shell of a snail, and bright blue.
The invasion has begun, was the first thought that came to my mind as we reached our final incarnation. And I had just helped the blue snail-beings reproduce. I was one of them now.
In my throat came this rumbling that grew into a roar. All around me everyone was transforming. It was good to be alive! Slowly, we began dancing. Ever so slowly. And with grace. A silent sway. Like so many strands of beautiful pool hair.