They Forced Me to Listen

There are 30-40-some-odd pool chairs set against the fence surrounding the splash pad at the Family Y pool we go to. The stars aligned and I had an opportunity to sit in one of those chairs and read a book for a couple of hours without keeping up with any children. There was only one other lady occupying one of the many chairs when I walked up. I left about 6 chairs in between us. It was just me and the original lady for a long while. About 20 minutes before it was time for me to go, three older women joined me and the original lady around the splash pad. There were, literally, 30 other chairs they could’ve chosen, but the first of the three women to walk up chose the chair right next to mine. It was kind of weird. If you were across the way watching us, you would’ve thought that we were all friends and that I’d been expecting them. So there was a lady, six empty chairs, me, three older ladies, and then 30 more empty chairs.

They all had the exact same hairdo- short, white and curled- and all wore similar but different one piece swimsuits- black with a varying tropical flower print. They said “Hello” to me as they filed in and made room for their gym bags and such. “Hi” I replied while trying not to seem confused by the fact that they chose to sit right next to me. It was like they wanted me to write about them.

Once they settled in, they began chatting about the water aerobics class they’d just taken and how the sun seemed extra hot after being in the pool. Soon, though, the subject of the conversation turned to the sister of one of the ladies. The sister, flying out of Boston, was due to arrive in town in just a few hours and my new pool deck neighbor was to pick her up from the airport. One of the women asked about the visiting sister and that’s when I was forced to start taking notes. They sat next to me- I had no choice. This is what I learned about the sister visiting our fair city from Boston:

1. She had a lung removed about 8 years ago. She can’t breathe so good but that’s why God made inhalers, isn’t it? Now, if she’d just stop complaining about having to use oxygen occasionally- we all have issues, don’t we? She doesn’t need to talk about it all the time to everyone. She has another, perfectly good and functional, lung.

2. She mostly only eats/drinks Slim Fast so meals won’t be much of an issue.

3. She does like to have a glass of prune juice in the mornings (keeps her regular) and a glass of Zinfandel at night (helps her sleep).

4. She’s not used to this heat and humidity so they’ll probably be mostly staying at home- they will visit a few local family members, though, and maybe walk the Mall in the mornings before it gets too hot.

5. She has one son who’s a “big time financial wiz” in New York and one who is in the State Pen. The financial wiz is the favorite, of course.

6. She loves “The Wheel of Fortune.”

7. She bitches about everything.

8. She’s been jealous of my pool deck neighbor since my neighbor was chosen to sing the National Anthem at the homecoming of their school many, many years ago. Boston sister still harbors resentment- they just don’t talk about it.

9. Their other sister was kind of the buffer between them and things have been “strained” since that sister passed away.

10. She is loved by my pool deck neighbor but sometimes it’s hard because she is bitter about so many things in their childhood and, as previously stated, she complains about everything. It’ll be a long week.

I stayed as long as I could, hoping to take more notes but it was approaching lunchtime and our kids do look forward to being fed.

I was folding my towel and packing my things in my bag when the local sister’s cell phone rang. She looked at the number, then to her friends said “That’s my sister calling- now, she knows I’m in my water aerobics class right now- why would she be calling?” She didn’t answer the call, just stared at the number on her phone.

Local sister’s friend: “But we’re not in class- you’re not going to answer her? Maybe something’s wrong…”

I subtly unfolded and then slowly refolded my towel  just to buy some time.

Local sister: “Oh, I’m sure something’s wrong- there always is- her plane is probably on schedule or something. She’s not even here yet and I already need a nerve pill. You know those little tiny bottles of whiskey or what not? I’ve got me several of those hidden ’round the house- I may be tipsy most of the time…this week would be the time to ask to borrow money from me.”

They all erupted in laughter and it was all could do not to ask what time the sister’s plane was arriving. I wanted to let her know that local sister was just going to be drunk and ignoring her the whole week- that maybe she should just go back to Boston and avoid the heat and eye-rolling altogether. Knowing her, though, she probably would’ve complained about me accosting her at the airport and not knowing me and all so I just decided to mind my own business.


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