I think of putting nails in the big garden hose, but I soon reconsider. The children are watching me, because I am bigger than they are, and their important mothers are not far away, wearing don’t-fuck-with-me sunglasses and actually-do-fuck-with-me-quite-hard sundresses. Equally important fathers sit behind tinted glass in the clubhouse, smoking cigars worth more than GDPs, enjoying smoky quartz time away from their interminable families.
I put the bag of nails into the pocket of my boardshorts and wander back to the novelty sprinklers, which today are arranged into an aqueous representation of Kilimanjaro and its surrounds. The whole thing repulses me, of course, but the oppressive heat compels me to jump beneath the nearest waterspout, which is meant to represent the minor foothills of some unimportant mountain. The others kids jump around in orgasmic summer delight—little Tarquins and Indias feasting a joyous moment from their incurable childhoods like meat from a bone. I stand, somewhere between a fictional Kenya and Tanzania, and I picture the rest of their lives, these privileged children around me: lives lived above so many others and any sense of innocent fun. Summer sprinklers are the great leveller, I think, no matter how artfully constructed.
Outside this party, beyond the fence, is a part of my life I can hardly make myself think about. Behind the stained wooden railings is my everyday appointment with banality. Out there, I am up on a roof somewhere kicking off dead pigeons with my shoe, breathing carbon-filtered air from behind my heavy mask.
Soon enough an apologetic looking woman with blocky black hair pulls me aside and whispers something in my ear about not being quite the right height for the other children to play with properly, and that maybe I could come back later when things were a little less busy. I untuck my scrunched up T-shirt from the back of my shorts and put it on.
“Where’s your nametag?” the woman asks.
“I lost it,” I lie.
“Where did you lose it?”
The woman actually looks quite like a man. She has broad shoulders, and the merest hint of an Adam’s apple. I ask her, in fact, whether she used to be of a different sex.
She looks at me as an audience does a great magician. “I think it was time you were going,” she says, the words seething out from between her teeth in dragon smoke. She walks past me, elbowing my ear quite hard.
“Strong blow for a woman,” I call after her.
The police hit me harder, of course, when they come for me. I’m standing under a palm tree and I suppose, really, I’m waiting for them. I try this thing with them I’ve heard about when a crocodile attacks you. You’re supposed to act as relaxed as you can—actually go limp, because the crocodiles can’t chew, they can only bite, and if you offer no resistance, they can’t tear any bits off you and they eventually leave you alone. It doesn’t work with police. They’ll try everything. I go limp when I think I feel the first blow coming but my eyes explode red because it’s a graphite baton and not just a fist like it usually is. On my way down to the dirt, my brain finds enough time to curse me in two languages.