The hotel pool. The sun is high. All the hotel guests’ children are wearing bathing suits, excitedly scurrying into the pool so they can pee in it.
I travel for a living and stay in lots of hotels. In my short time on this planet, I’ve learned a few things about kids in hotels.
One: Never get into the pool. Two: when it’s approaching midnight, children will collectively hold a decathlon in the hallways above your room.
Three: regardless of which is your room, in the middle of the night, gaggles of kids will hold a laughing contest outside your door. Four: Every apple on the breakfast buffet has been fondled by a 5-year-old with a runny nose.
Anyway, the pool. There were two boys at the swimming pool who caught my attention.
One of them was named Ben. I know this because Ben’s little brother kept shouting it. It was always “BEN!” this. And “BEN!” that.
The little brother was missing both arms at the elbow joint. And one of his legs was impaired, too. When they arrived at the pool, Ben removed his little brother’s prosthetics and left the paraphernalia with their towels. Then he helped his tiny brother into the pool.
“I’m scared, Ben!” said the boy.
“Don’t worry,” said Ben. “I’ve got you.”
Ben had his arms wrapped around the little boy, bear hugging him from behind. He was carrying him.
When they eased into the water, Ben was still embracing his little brother tightly, and his brother was freaking out.
“Don’t let me go, Ben!”
So Ben held his brother even tighter. In the pool, Ben carried the little boy around the shallow end until his brother calmed down. And when Ben’s brother was relaxed, Ben taught him to float on his back.
“Don’t let go of me, Ben!” said the little boy who had no arms.
“I won’t,” said Ben, supporting his brother from beneath. “I have you. I’m not going anywhere.”
Soon, Ben’s brother’s face was turned up toward the sun, lying in the supine position, floating like driftwood. Together they floated around the pool like that until Ben’s little brother was starting to enjoy himself.
“I wanna know what it’s like to swim, Ben!”
So Ben gave his brother a piggyback ride. The armless boy placed his amputated residuums around his brother’s neck and squeezed tightly.
“Are you holding on good?” asked Ben.
Whereupon Ben began to swim forward. The child without arms gripped his brother, who was dog paddling, struggling beneath the weight of his little passenger. But he never faltered.
They trolled around the pool. Ben made boat motor sounds with his mouth.
The little boy was really enjoying himself now. And when their mother finally said it was time to get out of the pool, Ben lifted his brother out of the pool, carrying him the way a groom carries a bride.
“Don’t drop me, Ben,” I heard the child say.
“I’ll never drop you,” said Ben.
And I for one believe him.