The Surrender

Walking home at night, alone in a suburban neighborhood, I am seized by something that could be a fugue state, clinical depression, or Byronic infatuation with a mood of dark, plummy blue. Potentially, probably, a simultaneous blending of all three. It’s barely past six in the afternoon, but the sun set hours ago; the cul-de-sacs parting from the main road are soaked through in nighttime, and occupied solely by ornamental plants and silver-plated bicycles propped up against fences. Once in a blue moon, I spot a young man in a suit, briefcase in hand, or the sweeping headlights of a minivan circling the gardens that will be mute until spring. But mostly I am fiercely conscious of being alone. In this isolation, I draw comfort from the small things that will accompany my body in perpetuity: the sensation of my winter coat around me, brushing against the backs of my knees, the sound of my breath and footsteps on the gravel. Beside a driveway, a Christmas tree glows faintly.

On the last turn before home, I spot something I’ve never seen on this commute before. A few feet to my left, a rectangular hole lies deep in the ground, enclosed by tall wire fencing on all sides. It is easily fifteen feet across, as many deep, and paved in concrete. My heart leaps in confusion, and for a moment I stand in the glassy pause between the end of peace and the beginning of horror. I feel like I am standing in front a painting depicting an act of extreme bloodshed, or watching a video on loop of lions feasting after the kill. But soon enough my vision adjusts to the darkness, and my rational brain kicks in, and I recognize, with a breath of relief, what I am looking at: the community pool, emptied in preparation for the winter. There’s the ladder extending into the shadows of the deep end, and posters with red-lettered warnings about the dangers of jumping. In the cool night, with the wind softly shaking trees that shed their fragile crescent leaves into the pool bottom, it looks so misplaced. Like an entrance to another world, too hastily camouflaged to be perfectly disguised.