Of Dreams, Death and Gin
Janet slammed back her third Tanqueray and tonic, struggled out of a black Speedo, and headed down the private beach to the water. She didn’t step out of her suit, as they were apt to say in the celebrity pop-ups increasingly invading the websites she liked to peruse around 3 am. ‘The Princess stepped out of her bathing suit to go swimming on the Cote des Basques.’ Janet couldn’t relate to that expression. Who could step out of a bathing suit? That implied the suit was loose and barely hanging from the shoulders/breasts and simply waiting for a shrug to fall to the ground so one could step out of it. Or it hinted at the presence of an assistant hovering nearby ready to peel the suit to your ankles so you could step out of it and skip into the waves. Janet had a hard enough time getting her suit on her body after gaining an embarrassing amount of weight the past year. Nothing was coming off without a disproportionate amount of effort.
For three nights, she patiently waited in the cottage on Lake Erie for the full moon to wane. Her recently developed tan was the perfect deception. Normally studiously avoiding the sun, Janet typically returned from her summer excursion into Canada as pale as when she boarded the plane at JFK. Best described as the color of a fish thrown up on the shore after a storm, Janet’s skin tone remained the same year-round despite her annual beach vacations. This year, however, she 86’d the sunscreen and left her portable beach umbrella—transported from her apartment in Brooklyn to Long Beach, Ontario—in the trunk of the rented Nissan she’d picked up at the airport. Chest, arms, and legs felt the brunt of her decision. When she’d studied her shockingly tanned self in the cottage’s tiny bathroom mirror that morning, she appeared to be wearing a beige, bordering on dirty-white, one-piece bathing suit.
The skinny-dipping excursion was the upshot of a recurring dream Janet had been enjoying for the past three months. In the dream, she struts along 57th Street in Manhattan––stark naked. She strides by Tourneau’s flagship store with its giant watches, Niketown’s arches, and Tiffany’s blue canopies. Approaching the corner, she picks up speed, takes three enormous steps as if heading for the long jump and lifts off. But instead of landing in a sand pit or at the very least in the middle of Fifth Avenue, Janet soars up, up, up. She floats over scores of people on the street below like the Superman balloon in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade—minus the guidelines. Fully clothed New Yorkers watch her sail by in slow motion. No sound. Everything is muted. Janet never considers the view she presents, for in this magnificent dream her thirty extra pounds do not bother her. She glides by unashamed and gloriously nude.
The folks at the cottage next door had recently doused their bonfire and gone inside. Smoke wafted across the sand. Janet dropped her suit a few feet from shore and trotted toward the water with the grace of an athlete. Which she was. In college. Before her husband. Before the babies. Years before candles, flowers, and a white cassocked priest sang over three caskets at a funeral mass. Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine.
Stepping over ribbons of seaweed accumulated at the water’s edge, Janet dove into the still lake, shivering slightly as water rushed down her back. Swimming parallel to shore, she flipped over and floated, flicking her feet every so often to propel back to her entry point. The water lapped across her breasts.
Only the fish watched from below.
After fifteen minutes she stood and slowly waded to shore.
As she approached the water’s edge, floodlights next door blasted on and a screen door banged open. She froze only for a moment then took three giant steps, leapt over her discarded bathing suit and soared into the air toward her cottage. She floated over a pair of men’s well-worn leather sandals placed in front of a stack of sun-bleached metal sand pails with pink shovels. Two precisely folded child-sized beach towels sat on the upper right corner of a beach blanket printed with mermaids, stars and moons. All neatly arranged for those who would never use them again.
She touched down on her front steps.
Janet woke up, looked out the window and saw the moonless sky. Rolling off the bed, she grabbed the half empty bottle of gin on her way out the door and headed to the water.
She noticed she’d already stepped out of her suit.
◊ ◊ ◊
The recipient of four Emmy awards, Pat Obermeier worked in the TV industry in NYC for close to twenty years. Prior to that she spent two years in the morass of DC politics at a political network and came out unscathed. Her political satire, The President Factor was released in November 2015. She has appeared on Inside City Hall (NY1) to discuss her book with Errol Louis (CNN/NY1). Her work has also appeared in the Buffalo News, The Flash Fiction Press and in a podcast on No Extra Words. www.patobermeier.com