The Perfect Summer: The Backyard Escape

What it’s like to own a pool

Illustration: Illustrations by Jawaan Burge

I can see it from my office window, a man-made hole in the ground filled with 25,000 gallons of city water. At its best it’s as clear and blue as a Bahamian littoral: You could see a penny at the bottom of the deep end, an earring, a tiny frog. At its worst it’s a lake-in-the-making, dull green, cloudy, with mossy parts in places. Thirty-two feet long and twelve feet wide, it’s the biggest single thing I own after my house.

I have a pool.

I have a pool. Now, there’s a sentence I never imagined I’d say, write, think. I never even wanted a pool, but boy am I glad I have one now. If you’ve ever been in the American South between the months of June and October and have accidentally gone outside, you know what I’m talking about. Everyone from Louisiana to West Virginia has a soft and sticky second skin all summer, what some people call a shine or a glow, but really it’s a reflective sheath of sweat—corporeal misery.

A pool is the antidote for all of this. A pool is the antidote for summer.

It’s luxurious for sure, but it’s not a luxury. Luxuries are extravagant, excessive, ostentatious, like Fabergé eggs. And no, it’s not a necessity either, like food or Grüner Veltliner. But without it summer would feel the way I bet it’s going to feel everywhere in the world toward the end-times, when the sun bakes us all to a fine grainy dust.

Other pluses: Like having a truck or a cute dog, it’s a friend-making device. People like you better when you have a pool. They want to come over. It makes for good parties. And what an unmitigated joy it is to see a dozen nearly naked land mammals returning so joyfully to the water. It’s a little miracle. It’s evolution in reverse.