The Pool in the Omni at Christmas

When Grandmother came at Christmastime, she got a room at the Omni, in the James Center. The room came with access to the pool we didn’t even know it had. The lights were still up so we went downtown, kids and everything, to humor her. Henry flung pennies at the dwarves in the fountain, May-may pointed at everything, the sixteen foot Nut-cracker, and careened around the lobby. We went up and down the elevator, then to Grandmother’s room, got on our suits and went searching for the pool.

I never noticed before but the James Center must be terraced, because the pool had a greenhouse roof at one end and sliding glass doors surrounding it that let out onto patio. Being December, of course, the whole place was freezing. We found a thermostat that given a couple of hours might’ve heated the water a few degrees. There was a heat lamp suspended from the ceiling that was disabled. The kid’s were far too excited for us not to be going in. I was to be first.

Submerged, I pushed deep into the deep end. I banked frigid against the far wall and came back to shallow water, Grandmother and Henry hooting loudly. May clutching at her mother's side. My foot thumped on the pool floor and I felt it reverberate, like a drum. I felt the bottom with my foot; it was steel plate, painted white. The sides of the pool were metal.

I realized in a moment, that myself, that all of us were swimming in thousands of gallons of water, suspended four stories up by what was essentially a steel pan welded into the ribs of a building. Nobody else seemed concerned with my discovery. Henry with his water-wings and Grandmother's thin arms under his belly. I thought about the welds holding the sides together, the welds stitching the tub to the beams, the beams, whatever was directly underneath. The five of us were laughing to keep warm; splashing in the steel pelvis of what passes for a skyscraper here.

And it held us up.