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SWIMMING IN THE OARK/Nancy Zafris 1IFE IS STRANGE, isn't it? A hotel pool in Rome, the china plate of jblue water, fifteen other girls in the company-issue swimsuit. We're stewardesses from Japan. Yesterday we went shopping. Tomorrow, Singapore. Our lounge chairs surround the pool like a fence, like a red fence with splashes of white paint. Next to me Michie talks of wanting to wear a bikini. She is the one who wears the most makeup in our group and that is saying something. When we're primped for a flight we look more like a troupe of Kabuki actors. Too much makeup and somehow you begin to look like a man. It's the layers of foundation on our faces—chin and cheeks—but that's how they like us, painted in white, the post-adolescent pimples hidden. The cosmetics clog the pores, causing further pimples, then more layers to cover up, and voilà! in no time Tm admiring a pretty transvestite in the mirror. Makeup free, I turn my face up to the sun. I have my eyes closed and Tm getting hot. Beside me Michie sighs. "Omiyage," she laments. "Such a constant trial," agree the others. Already I have three shopping bags of calfskins and Gucci from Via Condotti, presents for family, in-laws, and friends, but hidden in one is a secret treat for myself: miniature yellow post-its with an inch of Paloma Picasso leather binding, on sale for fifty dollars. There are so many presents to buy for others, and so many international trips, each trip requiring another round of omiyage. But the Paloma Picasso postits are for me; they made the laborious day of shopping worthwhile. Even now, relaxing beside the pool, money spent and obligations fulfilled, we are still waiting to enjoy ourselves. The blue pool is untouched , a sheet of glass, brittle when we look at it, deadly if we dare to shatter its surface. The only ripples come from the murmurs that begin to rise like heat shimmies from our sunbathing bodies. "Let's dive Ui," suggests someone. I don't immediately recognize her voice so I open my eyes. Of course. It's Hisako. Typical. She's the mischievous one, a hostess m the third cabin. A couple of others concur. "It's so hot," they say. "She won't mind." "Do you think she is sleeping?" asks another. "I could call her on the phone," suggests Michie. "Ask if she is coming down?" The Missouri Review · 49 "Not you, Michie." We laugh, then turn quickly around, spooked and fearful, half-expecting an apparition of Ishihara-san to waver before us. Everyone knows our supervisor cares least for Michie though she is diligent and obedient. Michie comes from the north, a small vUlage in Hokkaido. Her skin is like an icy blue pearl; she seems different, a product of the cold. I don't know why Ishihara-san dislikes her; perhaps it is her country upbringing; perhaps it is her large mouth neoned in a prostitute's oxblood lipstick. One would think Ishihara-san would disapprove of the mischievous Hisako, but Hisako, it is well-known, comes from a wealthy Tokyo family. She is a member of an exclusive tennis club, and Ishihara-san is salivating for an invitation. In another ten months Hisako will quit. She is to be married next May. Having been courted by so many suitors has made her a Uttle arrogant, fearless of consequences. Now that the airline has loosened its rules, almost a quarter of the stewardesses are married Uke me. But it is still hoped that we abide by the former rule and retreat Ulto housewifedom. Boredom. I am bored. It's hardly a violent experience—then it would at least have something to recommend it. It's more like being waterlogged and drowning from the inside out. Inside me lives a stranger but I've never met her. AU I know is that she isn't married. The sun heats our conflict about whether to jump into the pool ahead of our supervisor. Our disagreement wanders aimlessly, like a victim of heat stroke. "Ishihara-san is so...


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