It’s not unethical to buy one, despite what some people say. Sure, there’s too much plastic in the world, too much material, too many petrochemicals, but no one has told us definitively that it’s not ok. They would have banned them, anyway.
It’s completely fine if you want to walk to the hypermarket to buy one, making your way along the grass verge of a main road as cars skim past you. On the box there is a picture of the inflated pool, filled with water. Happy children, sitting in the blue, splashing around. You can ignore that if you want. The children’s teeth are far too white anyway. The sides of the pool are kind of sexy when they’re inflated, but you might not be able to work out why. Best not to think too much about that.
It’s a long walk to the hypermarket. You could walk through fields and behind railway lines, balance along the side of the road that leads you into an acre of carpark that glistens and shimmers in the heat. When you get inside, the air inside is cool and feels soft on your skin. You might want to have a browse, seeing as how you’re there now, with the thing in its box wedged under your arm. You might want to pull a baguette from the bakery section, allow its thin plastic cover to slip off. You might gnaw on this as you make your way through the hypermarket. The bread will be crusty on the outside and cause small abrasions to the corners of your mouth. The inside is fluffy and soft. You might think of lying down on a white bed. You might find yourself in the drinks aisle, picking up a bottle of gin. You might put it back, then pick it up again. It’s OK if you want to swig from the bottle as you make your way home, the drivers in their silent cars grimacing at you for walking along the verge, where walking isn’t really allowed.
When you get home, the gin might be half-finished, and the pool will need inflating. But you might take a minute to think about what you’ve done, what you are about to do. You might reason with yourself. It’s hot. It’s extremely hot and you need to cool down. Things have been stressful recently. You need to take some time. It really is very hot. Did you really need to buy the pool? You’re a grown woman for god’s sake. There’s no one else here. What are you going to do with it afterwards? What’s your long-term plan here? It’s probably OK. It’s probably fine. The pool exists and existed before you owned it. And you own it now; it’s here, flat and expectant, unfurled across your patio.
There’s a pump somewhere, takes ages to find it, doesn’t work that well. You could actually use your mouth for a bit, and you do and that summertime plastic smell floods into everything, along with the blue and the warmth and for a while this breathing in and out with your eyes closed is actually all you might need. But then your mouth gets dry and the garden starts to spin and maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to drink neat gin in this heat but what else were you supposed to do? Really, what can any of us ever really do?
When it’s ready you get the hose and fill it up. It really is as simple as that. You can get in and the water will cool you. You can stretch your arms along the sides and rest your cheek there too. Stroke the side of it with your fingertips. Your skin, in the water, is paler somehow; translucent. You can think about jellyfish in the Mediterranean, soft and elegant, moving through the aquamarine like it’s no effort at all. Your legs are weightless, just like that jellyfish. Put on your sunglasses and turn your face up towards the sun. You can get your gin and put ice cubes in it. It will soothe you. You can stay there all afternoon if you like. No one will mind. No one’s here and that’s how you wanted it. No one’s here to tell you they need you, or to tell you to pick up your stuff off the floor, or to ask you to make them a drink, or to take your hand in theirs. You made these choices; they were the correct ones. You might go inside, your legs dripping onto the kitchen floor, get the bottle of gin, nearly empty now, (that’s not possible, surely?) and pour it all out into your glass. Doesn’t matter. Everything’s OK.
Of course, after a while the sun will move across the sky and the patio will be in shade, and your neighbours will come outside into their garden with their yappy dog and their gritted-teeth argument, and someone somewhere will be practising the violin with their windows open and the scales will claw their way up your spine and into your brain. The next day it will rain, and the thing will crumple and sigh as the air inside cools and decompresses. It will sag. The smooth walls will wrinkle quietly in the greying garden, leaning in toward each other. Insects will crash into it and drown. The bees will be baffled by the dancing light that strobes across the patio. They will fall into the blue; choking and wriggling before spinning slowly and silently around and around. It will live in the garage after that, with spiders laying eggs in its dark folds. The plastic will take thousands of years to decompose, and before that scraps of it will wash through the soil, mixing with the grains of dirt and sand, until they find their way out to sea. You might, years later, starving and ragged, dragging yourself along the beach in the unbearable heat, open up the body of a fish and find microscopic parts of your paddling pool inside. But there’s no way you’ll ever be able to tell if it’s the same one, so don’t worry about that now.
Claire Carroll lives in Somerset, UK and writes about nature, technology and love. She is currently working on a collection of short stories about climate anxiety, existential dread and the female gaze. Instagram: @cccrrll; Twitter: @c_crrll.