Should Have Gone to Disney World
The first thing I notice about Colorado is that it's warm, too warm for the beginning of April, and so I start to take off my jacket, but my mom says no and tugs it back on, because she is always cold no matter where we are and she says being cold is one step away from having one. We are in Steamboat Springs, having taken a small plane from Denver, where we got off a bigger plane from New York. It was my first time on a plane, and it was fun, I guess, but I'm still sad that this plane did not take us to Disney World. My mom and dad said we didn't have enough money for Disney World, or even Disneyland, but I think they're just saying that because they've already been there, back before I was born. We always go where they want to go, sometimes to hotels that don't even have pools that my Uncle Danny calls "quaint." Usually we go on vacation with Uncle Danny and Aunt Leslie, who are not really married. Aunt Leslie picks out the hotels, and my mom says that it's hard for her to find places that I would like because she doesn't have any kids of her own, though Uncle Danny has a son named Michael who lives in Germany because his mom is German. I send my reading homework to him sometimes so that he can learn English.
But this time we are alone, just me and my mom and my dad, because Aunt Leslie wanted to go to France and my dad got mad because you can't ski in Paris and my mom got mad because she doesn't like it when people talk in other languages, and I got mad because I wanted to go to Disney World. So someone, I think it was my dad, decided that we should go to Colorado and now here we are, and I'm mad because I don't know if there's going to be a pool but I'm also happy because I got a new snowsuit and it's mint green, which is my favorite color.
We take a taxi to our hotel, though it's blue and not yellow like at home and when it lets us out I can see that there's this mountain, just right in the front yard of the hotel, and it seems like if you were going really fast you might even just ski right into the front door. But better than that is that off to the side there's a swimming pool, a really big one, although there's no water slide, which is what I was really hoping for. I start hopping from one foot to the other when we get into the elevator of our hotel, like I have to pee but really I don't, I just can't wait to get my bathing suit on and jump in.
"Mommy, when can we go swimming? Can we go now?"
She looks at me like I'm nuts. "It's too cold," she says, and looks at my dad, hoping that he'll agree with her but knowing the same thing that I know, that even if it really were cold he would go in anyway.
"Sheila, I'll take her to the pool."
"Jay, it's too cold."
"I said that I'm taking my daughter swimming." I love it when one of my parents calls me "my daughter" because it always means something good, not like "your daughter" which means that they're really angry at me. My mom pulls her fleece jacket tighter over her as we reach our floor.
When we get to our room, my mom starts unpacking immediately, as though we are going to be there forever and not for just a week. My dad checks out the cable channels until my mom gets to the bathing suits, then rips his and mine out of the suitcase, tosses mine at me, and goes into the bathroom to change. By the time he comes out, I have my suit on and my mom has given up on the unpacking.
"If you two are going to swim," she says, "then I'm certainly not just going to sit here and unpack."
The three of us make our way through the lobby and out to the pool, passing snowsuited skiers, my dad and I showing skin and my mom wrapped tightly in sweaters and more sweaters. My mom pulls open the door to the patio with force, like she's going to make the best of it since we forced her out here, though we didn't really. My dad gives me a light push out the door and then shuts it behind us. He drops his towel on the nearest lounge chair and dives right in, his body disappearing under the water, swimming almost the entire length of the pool before coming up for air. My mom heads for a chair farther away from us, like she doesn't know us or something, and immediately lights up a cigarette, which even I know is the real reason she followed us out here.
I am still, and so is the air, though it is goose-bumping my arms and legs so fast I can feel the cold rippling across my skin, because it really isn't warm enough to swim. The pool is heated though, and steam is rising off of it, blending into the smoke from my mom's cigarette, so I know that jumping in is the only way to get warm again. But before I can, my dad has snuck out of the water, and up behind me. He grabs me around the waist and lifts me up, dangling me over the edge of the pool. I immediately curl my arms and legs to my waist, silently begging him to hold on tightly.
"So my little Emily, do you want to go in?" He swings me through the air, back and forth, back and forth, until the air is no longer still and I am the wind, slicing through the chill with my body, swinging from the front yard mountain to the millions beyond, mountains everywhere I look, even down, where I see their reflections in the water. Finally, when I am so dizzy I can't tell the real mountains from the water mountains, he doesn't let go but jumps in, still holding me, and we go under together, the water warm around my head, the sunshine cutting a path down to where we are at the bottom. I wriggle free from him and swim my way up to the light, to the shaky scene through the surface of my mom breathing smoke up into the air.
"You forgot to tell me to hold my nose," I say, before my dad is even out of the water.
"Real swimmers don't hold their noses," he says. My mom hears him and exhales, "Oh come on, Jay, she's just a kid," but it sounds far away as my dad shakes his wet hair at me, sprinkling my soaking wet face. He dives underneath me, lifting me up onto his shoulders and then flipping me over, and we do this over and over again, and then we have races. He wins every race, like he always does, because I have only known how to swim for a year. My mom says it isn't fair, but that he tells her that the only fair way to race is to race for real, because there will always be someone around who has known how to swim longer than I have.
We swim for hours and hours. My mom leaves and then comes back again, with a Diet Pepsi this time, and she comes over to tell me that I should tell her when I want to get out because she put my towel on the heater inside so it'll be warm and toasty when I come out. By now there are a few more people in the pool, and more people sitting in lounge chairs, and my mom makes friends with a woman next to her and lets her borrow her lighter.
My dad tells me that he wants to get out of the water because he's so tired, but I don't want to get out yet. Getting out means that soon it will be time for dinner, and then it will be time for bed, and I don't want to go to dinner, and I don't want to go to sleep. He gets out anyway, and stands at the edge, talking to my mom.
"Daddy, please come back into the water," I am saying, but he doesn't hear me because he is saying "So where's my warm and toasty towel?" to my mom who isn't paying attention because something is wrong with her lighter. I place my hands on the curved concrete at the edge of the pool and jump up as hard as I can, placing my knee on the ground to hoist myself out of the water, standing up short behind my dad. Neither one of my parents is looking at me. My dad is reaching his hand out to my mom and it looks like he's going to knock that lighter out of her hand when I push him, push him back into the water. Only I'm not strong enough to push him far enough to where it's deeper, like I wanted to, I really did, so he falls right where we are.
He comes up right away though, not saying anything, and climbs out of the pool, not saying anything. And then he says, "Who the fuck pushed me like that?" and my mom looks up from her lighter and shakes her head and he turns around to look at me and even though I'm used to hearing him curse I shake my head too, even though of course I know that it was me. And then he looks away from me and down at his leg and I follow his eyes and his leg is bleeding, dripping blood down through the hair to the concrete, into the pool even. Some people come running over and someone says something about more chlorine and someone else says something about stitches and then everyone goes away, even my dad, limping next to the lifeguard, and they put up a sign that says pool closed for one hour and it's just me and my mom out there. I start crying and I am dripping wet without my warm and toasty towel and I am shivering. My mom puts her arms around me even though I'm soaking wet, and her jacket smells like smoke when I bury my nose into it. I think that maybe she saw me do it, that maybe somehow my dad saw me do it too, and everyone saw, and no one is going to swim with me ever again but all I wanted was for him to play with me in the pool some more. I didn't really mean for him to get hurt. I didn't think I could do that cause I'm only nine years old and I've never even really pushed anyone before, ever.
But my mom doesn't say anything like that. "Let's go get you into some clothes," she says. We walk into the lobby, and my dad is sitting in a chair getting bandages put up and down his leg, and then he gets up slowly, and limps over to us. My mom says, "See, I told you not to go swimming," and he says "It's not so bad, I can still ski, just need to rest it for the rest of the day," and they start to walk toward the elevator. I still don't know if they know it was me and I'm still afraid that they do and I still wish that we were at Disney World.
About the author:
Erica Barmash, a lifelong resident of Brooklyn, NY, has previously been published in The Minetta Review. She has never been to Disney World, though she did suffer through a family trip to Universal Studios when she was 19.