The women's swimsuits cut into their rounded backs like the strings around roasts. Their backs were a deep mottled red brown, shiny like beetles. Their bodies presented startling features: a soft, strangely independent pot belly on an otherwise skinny body, little puckers all around it; a pale lobe of flesh hanging off the back of an arm, with little dents like thumb-prints in it. They held these deformities up to the sun as if to be made well by it. So did their husbands, boldly presenting their hard, massive stomachs like shields. Some of the men had bosoms, borne up on their fat stomachs, crowned with little crests of hair. I was afraid to look at them. I remember crouching over a water jet in the shallows of the park pool, which had once been a natural pool and had the sloping sides of one, while legs and crotches went by me, striding up all sheathed in water, or haltingly descending with coy small steps. I looked no higher than their hips because I was embarrassed to look at their faces, partly out of simple shyness, but also because I was afraid they would read the curiosity and the passionate disdain I felt for them in my eyes. I despised them because they rarely swam. Tanning was their primary occupation. They brought coolers and radios and arranged them in clusters around their lawn chairs. It was as if they were marking out invisible houses on the lawn. Carefully, they fit their wet bodies into the lawn chairs and worked their way back to the correct angle. They spoke out of the sides of their mouths, to keep their faces pointed at the sun. They were pleased with themselves. The tanner they were, the more pleased with themselves they were. I understood that my own grown-ups were extraordinary because they were pale and because they swam. Despite my scorn for the tanners, I felt a tender, resentful embarrassment for my own grandparents, who pedalled their large, pale bodies around in the water, laughing and clowning with us. My grandmother wore blue swim goggles and floated serenely on her back, her colorful swimsuit rising in a dome to the sky. My grandfather guffawed and splashed us, his sparse chest hair making river patterns between his pale breasts. Stubbornly I played with them, aware of mocking eyes on us. I judged myself very harshly for being aware. My grandparents were sublime in their buoyant unconcern.

My own body was, I felt, invisible. It was difficult to negotiate the field of crossed gazes between my towel and the pool, but I knew my sudden feeling of unhappy celebrity was my own invention. I didn't register, I was like a stick figure, of which you don't ask, is it well drawn, is it beautiful? My body was the engine that propelled a pair of eyes through the world.