Letting go of the fly bar, Margot fell to the net. Both she and Kyla went another round. Kyla was able to do another catch and land with a backflip on the net. Margot was only interested in the catch, but for some reason, hands outstretched toward the catcher, she was unable to let go of the bars with her legs. Loosen up, was Kyla’s helpful advice shouted from down below the trapeze. Margot unlooped her legs from the bar and dropped down.
Kyla met her there. “Want to give it another go?”
“Day after tomorrow.” She would have to work up her nerve to make the catch.
. . .
On hot days, when Joe didn’t have a presentation, they walked out to the condo’s community pool where Margot would cling to the lip in the deep end stamping shapes into the hot cement with her wet hands while he sat reading, evening out the pale territory of his upper arms. He waited for her to resurface after each failed attempt to swim the length of the pool underwater with one breath (she was determined!) to ask the meaning of a word. It was difficult for her to define exactly what it was ‘ostensibly’ meant (“appearing to be, but might not be?”), but she did her best though she was almost certain that it was only sporadically satisfactory.
“I only know it means someone’s face, or is it facial expression?” She pressed the side of her dripping fist on the white surface, causing a lone ant to reconsider its carefully mapped out route. “Maybe both? But it can be used as a verb, too I think, except I don’t know how.”
“Mmm.” He flipped onto his back and put down the book. A leaf dropped onto his knee and Margot watched as he picked it up and walked over to her. Joe scooped some pool water in one hand and coated the white cement to cool it off before lying on the ground in front of her so they were eye level.
“Look at how this leaf has been eaten through by a bug,” he said, holding up the leaf in front of his eyes between them. It had tiny pinpricks spread out across its entire surface, the holes browning around the edges. “An ephemeral work of art.” Margot had just taught him the word moments before. He said it with the same reverence as someone experiencing a meteor shower or the birth of a firstborn child. The same reverence he displayed for her still lifes, undeservedly she thought, but appreciated. She pressed cold lips to his chin peeking out from below the leaf.
“If I knew how to snap pictures, I’d snap that picture,” she told him. She arranged thumb and forefinger of each hand into a frame in front of her line of vision. The air filling the space between them was moist from the layer of water Joe lay in. She could barely make him out behind the green filigree screen created by the insect’s chewed unintentional lace pattern.
“Well, don’t you?” Joe asked, sitting up. “Anyone can take a picture.”
But she didn’t really. Pictures never came out right to her. She saw something with her eyes and everything was placed precisely, just so. But caught on film, looked something else entirely to her artist’s eye. Which is why she preferred painting to photography, the reason behind her preference being simply because it was something she could control, something she considered a calling. The downfall was that she felt that photography was a better fount for capturing action, and so, with painting as her chosen outlet, she stuck to still lifes.
“How’s the circus act?” Joe asked. “Death-defying?”
“I’m having trouble letting go.”
“Trust issues,” Joe teased.
But Margot had already taken a deep breath and ducked under the surface of the water.