The lifeguard watches me swim. He watches me saunter the poolroom wearing flip-flops, trunks, swim cap, and goggles. He smiles. I smile. I wonder what he thinks of my stretching. It’s light and aerobic and I don’t get into heavy positions and don’t spend more than 16 seconds on each leg. I’m hardly even aware he’s watching. To be honest, he might not be watching. He might be on the phone as I’ve sometimes watched him. What phone call is so important? What incoming message is so pressing it needs to be answered by a lifeguard on duty? I’ve never heard him say the word, “Mom,” so it’s unlikely he’s speaking with her. Which could mean he doesn’t find her important. I once heard him say, ‘It’s not fair,’ rubbing the top of his forehead with his thumb, then look at his thumb to see what he wiped off, then wipe that off on his trunks. Which could mean he sweats when life gets rough. Just the other day he had this hiking magazine open to some tragic story of an expedition into the Grand Canyon that went horribly awry. Why is he reading about unpleasant mishaps instead of surveying the pool for disaster? I’m beginning to believe he has a bleak outlook on life. My lifeguard is a manic depressant. Not just Debbie-downer, he will look for shit to to be depressed about. Fearing my life (and realizing no other swimmer cares this much or even notices there is a lifeguard on duty) I attempt to cheer him up…
“Nothing, I realize we never speak. I am saying, ‘hello.'”
“Have you always wanted to be a lifeguard?”
“Is that a joke?”
“Why would I want to do that? What person you know wants to be a lifeguard? I’m thirty seven.
“Friend of mine wanted to be in the Coast Guard. Driving fast boats. Repelling from helicopters. Saving lives.”
“I’m wearing orange trunks, sitting on a metal fold out chair, at an indoor pool in a second rate gym.”
“The lanes are slow, medium, and fast. Pick one and get the fuck out of my face.”
Truthfully, I’ll be amazed if this guy lives through the night. I vouch never to spend so much time thinking about a person I don’t know.
An equally disturbing situation occurred between me and my landlord. I’m walking into the building, my child in stroller, about to lift him up the three small stairs into the area where I roll him to the door, when I’m met by the Trinidadian…
“Wonderin if I could have second of your time.”
“You have to stop smoking in the building.”
“It’s a hazard. You could start a small fire there and burn down the whole building.”
“Ok, I’m not the one-”
“You know who gets the ticket if a fireman’s walking through the building and sees you smoking your American Spirits out the window?”
“How do you know what brand I smoke?”
“I get the ticket. The building gets the ticket. I picked up your cigarette butts… another thing.
“I don’t smoke. My wife smokes-”
“I caught her in the act. She was scared the way I creeped up the stairs, while she was smokin and doin her text messagin with the email. I caught her smokin and she said she don’t smoke.”
“She told you that.”
“While she was smoking.”
“Right there in front of me she saying ‘I don’t smoke.'”
“Well, she’s smoking.”
“She was holding it for someone.”
“The young girls who speak French?”
“They’re cute those girls. I like the accent.”
“Whatever this. I also noticing you have those little cans or bottles outside your home. The wine you’re drinking, the Malbec, Argentina.”
How- Why- do you know- why are you looking so closely at our bottles?”
“You can’t leave them out there. Someone could trip. If a guy come and trip and fall on those bottles of Malbec, who do you think is getting sued?”
“Wrong. You. You the one getting sued for a 1000 dollar. Forget that it looks dirty and you see me all the time cleanin up the floors. Moppin the floors. Sprayin that bleach. But a piece of paper. Even a piece of paper on the floor, someone could trip and die.”
“So pass on the note.”
How is one to deal with this man? There is a suggestion bulletin board in the main hallway where one can find this man’s cellphone and email address. I googled him and found out he had a website. His last entry read…
Apartment #22 watches me mop. He watches me doing back-breakin labor wearing cargo pants, construction boots and an old Malta t-shirt. He smiles. I smile. I wonder what he thinking about me spraying the bannister with bleach. It’s toxic an invasive but I don’t spray more than 3 times on each single area. I’m hardly even aware he’s watching. To be honest, he might not be watchin. He might be smokin his Cigarettes while I watchin him.