Dear Public Pool Changing Room,
You are my favorite. I thought you should know this.
I have a list sitting next to me of locations I want to write to and I don’t know if it is fair or not fair to have favorites as they say with children, which I would not know as I have only one, but you are my favorite.
You were, maybe, always my favorite.
You are the beginning and end part, the entrance and exit that is really so much more. The pool itself is chaos and crowded towels, my own stretched out over hot concrete, body trying to find a more comfortable position with earphones in to listen to an audiobook while the kids coming down the water slide shriek as they hit the water and the diving board makes a creek when it pushes down before bouncing springs up and then the deep plunge or smooth splash erupts. There are people on towels next to me chattering and I try very hard to not listen so I can return to the low hum of everything a background noise and the sun soaking into my cells and the cicadas in the distance just over the fence.
There is something so important to me here. I am always so close to something so important here.
There are so many bodies here. And usually being around a lot of people pressed close together is not at all what I like. The stimulation is overwhelming to my nervous system. But being around so many different bodies that all get to be together without thought or interference is reparative and soothing to me, as is the sun, the heat, the specificity of the collection of sounds, and the smell of a pool which makes me float through the younger ages that still live alive in me.
My body grew older. The ages in me did not. So there is a five year old and an eight year old and a ten year old in me, and they are still going to the public pool too. It is both now and then. Both at once. They still walk into you, into the shelter of your concrete walls and floor, and place clothes into a red locker that you place a quarter into to get the key and they want to keep bubble gum in their mouth even though it is against the rules and are delighted that now I am an adult and can have whatever fucking towel I want that I chose for myself. They still relax, as I do now, when the clothes come off and a swimsuit come on.
It is safe. You are a safe house. For me.
You are a place that houses bodies. You are a place that let bodies be bodies. Without so much interference. Without there being stories. Without there being anything else really but bodies existing as they are.
There is a lot of noise sometimes about body positivity and in this we lose the importance of neutrality. Of body neutral. And that is you. Body neutral. You were then, when my body was a place of fear and a place of curiosity and a place I needed to leave, when my body had the capacity to be hurled through the air and plunged into cold water which was everything I wanted. And when my body was also the scene of the crime and carried all the evidence, and was also the taste buds that could come alert at red fun dip sugar poured over from a packet while an orange bathing suit stuck to concrete and in this moment I was so content. The moment I walked into your walls with all the other bodies, I knew I was safe. I wouldn’t be asked questions and I also wouldn’t have to be alone.
You are now, when my body and self is unhealthy and unwell and everyone and the world screams “be healthy” and wellness is everything and some would think by looking at me that I have achieved those things even as I’m in a state of utter collapse. But that’s the thing. When I’m here, here sitting on one of your wood benches in the room that has only one mirror and it is too high to really see anything in anyway, no one really pays much mind at all, negative or positive. It is blissfully neutral. No judgement. No praise. Neutral. A kind of shared space of knowing there are bodies here and the bodies can take up space and the bodies belong, as they are, and we cohabitate and come and go, and it is as it is. And that ease is what you house. And all the humans, the bodies, cooperate, as if to take their cue from you. There is very rarely commentary on bodies here, your concrete walls and floors and metal lockers and open showers and thick burn of chlorine and entirely undesirable bathrooms some kind of haven.
We are here. There is a casualness to all of it as we come and go here and you let us come and go here, without asking for more in return. Without asking that we love ourselves or like ourselves or heal ourselves. And yet it is here I know a sense of allrightness. As I did all the years ago; a sense I found nowhere else. So I come. I come whenever I can. I come to you and spend time in you and leave you every time with a quiet thank you. I love all of us humans together, the inclusion of all of us. I love the ease of movement there even when that requires assistance, and how someone is yelling after someone else who is still in the bathroom. I love the adults helping with the children and the nakedness together without care and washing hair and talking about what’s for dinner and how to chill watermelon. I love women helping each other with clasps and ties of swimsuits and the smell of chlorine that is thick and heavy and the way the bodies who are dying off warm skin and talking about birth control and politics and where is a good deal on paperbacks.
I love the connectedness and shelter of it, these humans who don’t give a fuck and care about small things all at once. And how this happens because of you. It’s all you. I didn’t know it then, but I do now. It’s you. And who we become when we are with you and here in your presence, in the noninterference of you still strangely intimate, which is love. It is you. It is you. It is you.
Yours in Love + Defiance,