I see myself. I am an observer, perhaps a fellow holiday maker laying stretched out on a white plastic sun bed; my towel scrunched beneath me. Sauntering toward the pool I realise I look good. Wearing a fitted floral bikini; I’m not at all self conscious, I’ve had a full leg wax and a Hollywood. I’m slim in a comfortable way. My hair is styled in a short wavy bob. I look down at my feet; my nails are professionally painted in Russian blue. I love them.
I linger, appreciating the hot sun baking me nicely at 39 degrees. Caitlan and Paddy are negotiating a gigantic rubber ring – they’re laughing, plunging and splashing; their factor fifty legs and arms entangled. With large green diving goggles suctioned to their faces they look like cute alien frogs. They wave wildly at me. I return with an SOS wave smiling. I like my smile; the sensation of its corners stretching up and outward. I don’t care if it means I’m inviting wrinkles. Bring it on.
Leisurely swimming breast stroke my arms stretch out wide in a circular motion and my knees come together to propel me forward. I feel strong, athletic, invincible! My stomach muscles tighten as I surge back and forth. Twenty lengths – great!
I’m at the deep end. Folding my legs I use my hands to wall walk to the pool floor. My body’s instinct is to float up but I resist. I sit there cross legged, holding my breath enjoying a moment that’s completely mine.
Submerged I pull Caitlan’s leg. As I surface I meet her sparkling, mischievous green eyes. Paddy’s face pops up over her shoulder. I hold my hand straight and stiff, the thumb resting against my forehead to form a shark fin,
“Sharky George is coming, swim little fish, swim, Georgy is hungry.”
We play water polo. Tinker is very competitive. He lunges for the ball, throws it to Paddy who tosses it to Caitlan who scores; she is her father’s daughter. There are raucous group hugs. We’ve caught the attention of poolside sunbathers: frown, frown, thumbs up, frown, raised eyebrows, smile. Resting my back against the pool side I look up at the glorious sun; its heat on my skin is rejuvenating. I want to bottle this very moment. I could say that I wanted this minute to last forever but that would be selfish because Caitlan and Paddy would be 14 and 13 eternally.
Tinker swims toward me. I like how he looks in sunglasses, his hair wet. Putting his arms either side of me, we kiss. It’s the kiss of devotion. It’s slow and it tells a story.
Reaching up to the handles of the pool ladder, I put my foot on the first step and I feel the muscles in my arms tense as I pull myself up. Water falls from me. I run my hand through my hair, droplets race down my already hot back. Husbands’ eyes quickly stray toward my tanned toned frame. I’m oblivious. I only have eyes for Tinker.
I’m running with him, we’re racing Caitlan and Paddy to the beach. The grassy ground, hard baked and cracked by the intense Turkey sun, is beneath me. Running is my thing; I fall into a comfortable rhythm. I’m connected to the earth, to the infinitely clear blue sky above me; I’m organic. Consciously inhaling and exhaling to avoid a stitch my breath synchronizes with my stride. I look across at Tinker; our eyes connect, we smile at one another, the kids are whooping. I’ve made it to the beach bar. Yes! I stop. My children and husband run into the sea, jumping wildly over waves with frothy white crests. I’m laughing and breathing heavily. I look a little mad but I have an aura that catches the odd passing eye. It makes them smile and for a brief moment they too feel carefree. My happiness is contagious.
Sitting at the beach bar, enjoying a cappuccino I recall the night before. We’d had an early dinner to avoid the all-inclusive rush hour. At the amphitheater I’d sat sipping mojitos and tequilas with rainbow umbrellas pierced through limes and oranges. Below us the stage rocked with twirling toddlers at the mini disco. We played gin rummy, twenty one and traffic lights, it was serious stuff, Euros were at stake. Paddy won, Paddy won again, Kitty then Tink – hey lady luck what about me! Kitty was giggly she’d sneaked a few snips of my mojito – bold girl!
After the show, the kids meet up with their German friends and we follow them to the beach disco. They are not shy – I like that about them; there is no awkwardness. They prank around and dance in a circle. Pop and Garage beats out and they jump in unison, arms punching the air, singing along, chanting. I notice the tall blond boy; he’s playfully pushing Caitlan around. She’s giving as good as she gets as usual. I see the first spark of attraction between them
I glance nostalgically at my husband. His eyes reflect a nineteen year old girl, in a bright red dress, playing darts in The Paddington Stop. She’s at the bar counting coins from a pink soft leather purse she purchased in Greece. A man beside her cheekily chats her up. He’s confident; she finds his features alluring. He’s says his name’s Tinker.
Hips swaying, shoulders shimmying I’m dancing and I feel on top of the world. I look above at the glitter balls and the pink and blue LED disco lights and WHAM and DURAN DURAN pop randomly to mind. Tinker pulls me to him and we move in unison. My head nestles into his neck. I kiss it gently. I’m still in love.
I see myself; the rose tinted glasses removed. I’m the same but different. The short wavy bob, the slim frame and the easy smile that flickers at the first glimpse of my family are all Alison. My heart is still huge but my head is muddled. My body is awkward. I laugh; it’s warm, it’s real.
I’m putting sun lotion on Paddy’s back; it’s what mums do. My arms feel weakly heavy; they are alien to me but I continue to rub and I massage a little into his ears. He’s so cute.
A member of the animation team spots us. He knows Cait and Pad. Yesterday they went paintballing with him. He’s a bit of a joker. He’s young, about 26, his nose is large but it suits his face. He has a six pack and is hench as Caitlan would say. I note a glimmer of interest in his eyes; he’s not sure what to make of me, of us.
“Hey Paddy, Katrin (he can’t pronounce Caitlan), hoopa hoopa it’s pool games.”
In unison Paddy and Cait scramble off their sun beds and join the forming crowd of teens and menopausal men.
Tink is already in the pool. Bums! Getting off the sun bed is a feat in itself. I turn onto my side and raise my outer leg toward the ground – my bottom is now upright and on full HD view (that’s why a Hollywood is essential). Straightening takes a few moments. The spasms between my shoulder blades threaten. I momentarily freeze. I feel it pass; I continue to straighten – yes – I’m upright – joy!
Squatting to retrieve my camera from my bag I wobble. It’s not very lady like but I can’t bend over; I get dizzy and fall. Chart music vibrates from a large speaker, it floats into my ears and beats in my heart, I feel light and elevated; inside I’m dancing. I linger momentarily and embrace it. My hips sway gently. I yearn to dance but it’s difficult, my legs beat to their own drum now.
I reach for my cane; my fingers are stiff, it’s hard to grasp. Walking slowly toward the pool, I consider each step, it’s a slippery surface, I teeter then regain balance, yes…I’m on fire! My gait is unusual. I see sunbathers speculatively watching me,
“What do you think is wrong with her?” they ask in hushed tones – on holiday with little to distract I’ve become the centre of attention – I’m a celebrity. Cool!
Sitting on the poolside, my legs dangle in the water; they are lean no longer – shame.
Paddy is racing across inflatable stepping stones. He’s a whippet in neon orange shorts. The way his body moves, its quick reflexes astonish me. He’s on video, I rewind and watch, again and again – amazing!
Caitlan is so cheeky. She was out first round but no one noticed. Now she’s in the final of the ‘Spoon Diving Competition,’ with two bulky Belgiums wearing inappropriate shorts. We all know only Daniel Craig does Speedos.
I watch her, she’s got a killer look, her toes just touch the edge of the pool and she’s leaning forward. She has a glass hour figure, her legs are strong and tanned; her flamingo bikini is perfect; feminine but modest. She glances at me and I give her the thumbs up; she’s already a winner. I love her so much I can barely breath.
Tinker assists me back to the sun bed. He covers me in sun screen. I lay stiff; an embalmed mummy unable to alter position. Earplugs in I loose myself in music. In my head, I’m the old me, I feels so real I’m nearly tangible.
My music library travels from my ipod, through the pink wire, into the ear piece and suddenly I’m gracefully leaping from one inflatable step to another. Paddy is behind me but I’m too fast, I stick my tongue out at him and laugh. From the last inflatable I leap for the sky and plunge into the water; sick!
Latin, Maroon 5 and Euro pop vibrate through my ears and I’m plunging to the bottom of the pool, waiting for the water to settle. Where is that spoon? Where is it? My heart is racing and I’m struggling to breath. The Spoon! My lungs are bursting but excitement oxygenates me and I swim toward it and grasp it tight to my chest. I power up to the surface, the spoon in my hand, the animation team clapping, my husband chanting,
“Go Al, Go Al.”
Our room in spacious with two sets of twin beds divided by a lattice partition. We take turns in the bathroom getting ready for dinner. I sit on the wall of our patio; the kids intermittently appear with a snippet of information about endangered animals (satellite T.V.). I close my eyes and look toward the sun; I’m a solar panel. Walking from the pool to our room was challenging; I’m weary, I need to recharge. I look at my medication: Pregabalin, Amitriptyline, Tramadol, Naproxen; my hand trembles slightly; I’m a pill popper but a pretty one. I’m wearing a green emerald dress that cups my breasts, comes in at the waste and floats round my legs. My skin is golden. I look a picture of health.
It’s still hot; we walk together toward the restaurant. I’m slow; it’s ironic that the hotel gardens are home to tortoise. I watch tortoise move, each step he takes is laboured. The weight of his shell is oppressive. ‘Forest Gump’ comes to mind. The impulse to drop my cane, pull my arm from Tink’s and run till my chest hurts and my throat burns strikes from nowhere but I swallow it, my throat coarsely dry. I move closer to Tink and I silence the voice, “Run Alison, run!”
Dinner is always a success. The food is delicious and the variety wide. I absolutely love all-inclusive. I sit at the table and Patrick places a dinner plate in front of me with tasty morsels from seven continents – of course noodles go with chicken tikka! I look at my son who thinks of me before himself and I feel joy.
Getting food from plate to mouth is taxing. I’m grinning because my meatball has just rolled across our table and onto the floor; oops! I look at Kitty, she spotted my misdemeanor and we share a secret smile.
Laying motionless in bed, Tink asleep long before, I feel sad. I endeavour to reject the emotion but it seeps into my thoughts and my state of being. Tomorrow we go home. We say goodbye to adventure, to a hot, burning sun, to soft golden sand, to pool games and teenage romance. I say goodbye to me.