“Hey, mister! Hey! You need to put on a swimsuit!”
I turned, surprised, to see the young looking lifeguard yelling from the side of the pool at my friends and I. He couldn’t have been more than 16.
We were standing waist high in a pool filled with natural hot water from the nearby local Crystal Hot Springs. There were six of us standing, clumped together and laughing about inane things on this pristinely beautiful day.
I turned to look at my friend Hi, who was standing a little higher out of the water, wearing a pair of sunglasses and snug pair of swim trunks that he had picked up in Mexico recently. They were the kind of swim trunks common in Mexico or Brazil, but less common in small-town Utah.
Hi stood taller in the water. “Excuse me? I need to put on a swimsuit? This is a swimsuit!”
I looked around, absorbing the awkward energy in the air and becoming aware that everyone else in the pool had taken notice. It dawned on me how loudly the lifeguard had yelled, creating a scene, instead of calmly calling Hi over to the side of the pool. The patrons in the water were a hodgepodge of small-town Utah folk, variations in age and body type but all under the same theme. We six gay men standing in a clump in the center of the pool clearly stood out in this crowd, not in our flamboyance or fabulosity so much (although that would be fun), more in the fact that we were six men hanging out together with no women in our party.
The lifeguard took a step back, narrowing his eyes, confused. “That is a swimsuit? Um, okay. Okay then.” He seemed skeptical and took another step back.
The few dozen other patrons included a leathery older woman in a bikini floating with her knees up, an obese Hispanic woman with a concerned look on her face sitting on the edge with her legs wrapped around her husband who stood in the water, a too-too blonde forty-something mother of four children all floating on the surface of the water in elaborate floaty devices, a trim thin man with a long bushy mullet and a mouth full of tobacco, and a fit Mormon couple in modest swimwear who looked slightly outraged.
Hi lowered himself in the water and took another step forward. “Why, did someone complain? Someone said I wasn’t wearing a swimsuit?”
The five of us there with Hi moved our heads all at once back to the lifeguard, watching an elaborate tennis match between them. Our faces conveyed a collective ‘oooooh, what is she gonna say next?’ expression between us.
The lifeguard blanched a bit and he took another step back even as he leaned in to whisper in his loud voice, somewhat conspiratorially. “Um, they thought it wasn’t a swimsuit. Yeah, someone complained.”
Hi took another step closer, the predator approaching his prey. “And who complained? What did they say?”
The lifeguard made an effort to lower his voice yet again, but everyone in the area still heard. “They said it was, um, see-through!”
Hi, laughing loudly, stepped out of the water a bit and turned to us, his friends. “Does this look see-through?”
The lifeguard retreated farther away, stammering an uncomfortable apology, and a few minutes later Hi disappeared.
My boyfriend Mike noticed first. “Where did he go?”
I opened my eyes wide in mock drama. “Maybe he is approaching each person in the pool if they complained and why?”
We had a good laugh, and the conversation soon shifted to idle topics. We commented on how burnt we were going to be later (we were) and how tired (we were), and how we definitely needed some water to replenish our dehydrated systems (we did).
As we prepared to get out of the pool, my friend Paul commented, “I wonder if these mineral-rich waters will endow any of us with super powers?” Signs all over Crystal Hot Springs advertise the mineral density of the waters, which range from 80 to 140 degrees and vary in color from murky brownish to less murky greenish.
I pondered for a moment. “I bet the only super power you get here is super dense urine. You get the potent power of pee after all this.”
“Ooh, I like it! What would my hero name be?” Paul asked.
“Water Boy!” I said in a heroic bluster, and everyone laughed.
We stayed in the pool for a few minutes more, all chipping in to detail the origins of Water Boy, with discerning super-powered pee. After his chemical alteration from the waters of the Hot Springs, he developed super potent urine that could heal the righteous and burn the evil. It was ridiculous banter, but we laughed heartily at our own cleverness.
I mimicked an old woman’s voice, pretending she had just been saved by our errant hero. “Oh, thank you, Water Boy, thank you! Also, I love asparagus, what a nice smell!”
The laughter continued as we exited the pool, still aware of the eyes of the other patrons on us. I grasped Mike’s hand as we headed toward the locker rooms, unwilling to be afraid of the perceptions of others; men holding hands or wearing European swimsuits in small towns are hardly crimes.
We found Hi at the exit, all changed and ready to go, and as we left we had a good laugh about the events. Tired and sun-baked, we continued our banter as we drove away, leaving the small town of Honeyville and heading back toward Salt Lake City.
As we did so, I looked in the rearview mirror briefly and saw the smile pasted on my face. The smile reflected a good day, a relaxing afternoon, and most of all the fact that it feels amazing to have friends to have adventures with and stories to tell about them later.