Swimming Holes


She fucking hated living in Texas. Hated it. She thought it might be okay, they’d spent time there before, but she came to hate it fully. To be fair to the people of Austin, they were as welcoming to her as the people of any other city she lived in. The husband and wife made friends, they were engaged in their respective communities. Austin and Chicago have this much in common for her. But she can no better explain her deep, abiding love of that city than she can her deep discomfort in this one.

Texas is about a lot of things, and yes, she’s saying this as a non-Texan. Most of the things Texas is about she is not about, even though everyone loves Austin, we know. Look, it doesn’t feel good to hate what everyone loves. Texas all around is about barbecue (dislike) and guns (super dislike) and Austin is about live music (don’t all big cities have live music?) and sno-cones (okay, something she likes) and swimming holes.

She fucking hates swimming holes. Swimming holes are rocky and muddy and slippery and slimy and gross. She would have been happy without ever setting eyes on a swimming hole, but her husband had a fondness for nature of this sort. She has nothing against water. She loves water. She loves a waterfall, she loves a stream in the woods. She loves the ocean. The ocean is vast. It’s mysterious. A swimming hole could be mysterious too, insofar as one might wonder who was murdered and tossed in there in a burlap sack.

Just before they left for New York, they went to one last swimming hole. The husband was now a Master in Fine Art, and having packed for the move, was eager to see anything he might have missed. The wife was recovering from a minor medical procedure and wasn’t allowed to swim, not that she would ever swim in a hole, but the landscape of this special swimming hole was that it was surrounded by rock formations, steep, sharp, rocky rocks, one or two flat and wide enough to lay a towel or blanket on, most, not all of it precarious, footing-wise, which is another thing she doesn’t care for in nature, precarious footing. So they were at the swimming hole with all the rock formations and absolutely no grass, no sand, no beach, and a shit ton of people, lying out on rocks wherever they could find a small perch, men and women and teenagers and toddlers, sunning and jumping off rope swings and floating on donuts and listening to loud and twangy music and eating and drinking and smoking. When you go to a swimming hole like this, unappealing to your personal sensibilities before you toss in a crowd, and some of them are smoking, and you’re stuck on a cliff of jagged rocks, you’re more or less trapped. You can’t jump to the next rock. There is no next rock. Quickly, you reach a level of sadness over the swimming hole that is clearly, even to you, out of proportion to the very idea of crying over a swimming hole, which you would soon enough leave. You didn’t move to the swimming hole. You went to the swimming hole for an afternoon.

The wife knew she was perhaps crying about other things, maybe she didn’t even know what she was crying about, or if she was crying about more than one thing. She missed her dad, she didn’t know what was next, moving is hard, who knows. Her husband was gentle with her about it, but there was something she couldn’t touch that made her think he wished she’d just get over it. That she was wrong for not liking swimming holes. That she was wrong for having strong feelings about where she lived versus his absence of such. She didn’t want to be crying about this being some major difference between her and her husband, not feeling the same way about swimming holes or Texas, but this felt closer to it.

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