I had never seen you in the water before. On it, plenty -- on the old boat where you lived, walking the dock with your arms swinging in the liquid light, in pictures of you at the sticks in your uniform, laying into the engine, lifting your boat on a toe of white foam. But never in the water. It was an arresting realization, that I was seeing you in a context entirely new to me yet so essential to you. Like a trespasser I stood at the edge of the pool and watched as you moved in slow motion under the surface, long and stretched and deliberate like a held breath, reaching your arms prow-like and following them beneath the buoyed rope with no effort at all, as if a current carried you. I felt pierced by the grace of you, the simple, sure motion of your body.
I am as pale and awkward as a crayfish in the water. I scrabble at walls, my fingers all angles in my clumsy attempts to steady myself. Even when I relax and lie back I sink. We made a game of it, me skittering across the pool like a drunk muskrat in a panic, gasping with my mouth barely above the surface, and without a sound or a ripple you would overtake me, slipping around me like the water itself, only holding me up, not pulling me under. How you can love a thing that intrudes so inelegantly into your world is a mystery to me.
The water transformed you, lightened the color of your hair and stuck it together in sharp points, a wild golden animal bristling. It shone in the shadow of your chin. It beaded and ran from the crossed anchors tattooed over your heart. The sun was setting, picking a few leaves out of the aspen's green crown and setting them afire. The floor of the pool reflected the sunglow, a mobile, reticulated network of pink-orange lightning. The lightning struck at your feet and forked over your legs. I thought, looking at your feet and the sunset flickering over them, Some day we'll be old, but I will remember how he looked tonight, and how he moved under the water, how young and strong and beautiful he was.
I lifted you onto my back and carried you as deep as I could walk. You said, I feel like we're kids again.
I know. Me, too.