Families are a secret, the Schoenbaums as well as my own: behind the high walls of home, anything cao go on; all screams are muffled. It is only rarely that a peephole opens - somehow or other the lock on the truck is sprung - and we can see or listen in. At the municipal swimming pool where Keven tried in vain to convince Lily to Iet go of the side of the pool, on an August day when Cecily and Harriet Schoenbaum are there with my sisters and me, a mother drags a child about my age across her lap, pulls down his swimming trunks, and spanks him with her thong. Slap! slap! slap! goes the thong against the boy's exposed flesh. The curve of his buttocks is like Eric's, and I watch transfixed as the soft white of his flesh turns a stinging red.
The mother is sitting on a rusted iron bench against the whitewashed wall behind the lifeguard's station, the same bench you have to pass on your way in and out of the pool. The private has been made public: there are n fixed boundaries between the domains of one Lena and the other - the Lena at home, spanking Eric, and the Lena sitting innocently at the other end of the pool, a chaperone smoking a cigarette. It is as though she has become transparent: everyone can see who she really is, the lifeguard will have her arrested and handcuffed along with the other woman.
But nothing happens; there is no sounding of alarms. "I told you I'd fix your wagon," the mother says. "I told you to listen to me or else." She lets the boy up, and replaces the thong on her foot. Her toenails are painted red, the toenails of a witch. The boy is crying very hard as he pulls up his trunks, which are emblazoned with navy and white stripes.
I am standing nearby - I have turned deaf to the splashings around me, the shouts of "Watch me! Watch me!" as another perilous dive or intricate stroke is executed - when suddenly the boy's mother turns on me. "What are you gawking at?" she says. I blush. I can feel my face turn hot and crimson, like the boy's - like Eric's - bottom. I turn back to the other end of the pool, where Harriet Schoenbaum curls the soles of her feet over the edge of the diving board while Lily and Rachel look on. Can it be that they haven't even noticed the spanking? Inside my bathing suit I feel breathless with excitement. In the area between my stomach and the top of my thighs - the area that has no name, that is never referred to - I throb with a tension so exquisite, it feels like a pain I want to prolong forever. In the effort to make sense of what I experience, the confusion of realms - pain is pleasure, pleasure is pain - I give in to the evidence of my senses, an erotic flooding. I have no need to enter the pool, for it has entered me.
(to be continued)