Dec 21, 2009

The whole world green

In the ascending elevator the people were unhappy and complained. There was no sun. It was Florida in Spring, green and glowing, warm and with recorded birdsong symphonies broadcast from every bush and bunch of flowers in the resort. But, the people said, there was no sun. The elevator opened on the eighth floor and they got off, glum and silent. They were replaced by a young couple in sandals and swimwear with towels and the elevator descended again. It was all shiny metal and mirrors, and the pair saw themselves reflected there, on the inside of the elevator, smiling and holding hands as they went down. The pool outside was perfect blue, the kind of water where you can see straight through and it seemed, to them, a perfect day.

A mallard landed in the pool leaving little ripples, a gentle wake of his glide. His head was green and held high and he swam in a circle, a surveying king. Besides that it was empty.

The young couple brought their own towels, taken from the room, and draped them over the plastic poolside chairs with their sandals and his glasses and the key to the room. Then he saw and pointed out the resort had whole stacks of towels there all ready by the pool. The towels were white and thick, folded in stacks that seemed endless. She said, "well, now we know for tomorrow," and it seemed like tomorrow was a long way away, and when it came it would last for forever, and everything was at peace. Then they swam in the pool, under the overcast sky, and the place was mostly empty and completely calm as they swam. The woman did laps back-and-forth and the man floated on his back and looked at the sky. He closed his eyes, and with the light through the trees, everything was green. She swam underwater and came up to surprise him. She laughed and made a funny face and they laughed. She wiped the water from her eyes and he kissed her.

Around them, though, everyone was unhappy. At the restaurant an older couple ate without speaking: he the clams with wine sauce, she the roast beef with couscous and asparagus spears, both of them frowning and picking. Out in front of the resort, where the shuttles were supposed to stop, a man in board shorts and a flowered shirt kept shouting, "Is that what you want?" At a bench outside a boy played a gameboy while a man, maybe a father for whom this was custody, asked questions that were not answered. He phrased each one as if it was interesting, and then paused and said, "hmmmm?" At the hot tub two little girls splashed and jabbered as their father tried to read the USA Today. The younger girl splashed and shouted through the bubbles and the older one saw the mallard dripping and waddling and began to screech "he's so cute!" until the father snapped the paper and said he was trying to read. The hot tub was immediately silent then except for the bubbles, and the younger girl began to cry. Against all this, above it, behind it and around it, ignored, the birdsong kept playing, trilling and tripping like happiness with a whistle.

Then on the third day when the couple woke up the woman was sick. She had a fever and ached and it felt like the flu. This was the third day at the resort, the fourth they were married. She threw up in the bathroom. Her head hurt and throat hurt and she lay in the bed and wanted to cry or at least sleep. The man went and got nyquil at the supermarket outside the resort, driving a mile and then two to find it. He bought cans of soup and orange juice and rented two movies. He had to wait to be checked out because the clerk, a pregnant woman chewing gum, was talking to the police about two teens she'd seen stealing condoms. They were, she said, dumb little fuckers. Then he went back to the resort and up the elevator, letting himself quietly into the room.

The woman was asleep but woke up to say, "you're here," and he crawled under the covers and held her. "I'm here," he said. He told her what he bought and she said he was wonderful. The afternoon air was sweet and came through the curtains open to the balcony. He held her and watched the curtains. She sighed and closed her eyes again to sleep.