Earlier, there was quite a scene at one of the compound’s swimming pools, and no it did not involve women swimming in abayas, which is strictly forbidden. If you are in the pool, then you must have on a swimming suit. If you are in an abaya, then you must not be in the pool. And yes, women have attempted to swim in the pool in abayas and they are promptly told to get out or leave. This I have not seen but I would imagine that it looks something like nuns in full habits swimming or swimming goths or a witches’ coven hit by a flashflood.
Not many people were at the pool. For the most part, it was a quiet afternoon. Under the shade of the awning that runs the length of the south side of the pool, a man - who somewhat resembled an overweight ogre in a speedo - skyped and then later he walked around smoking. Danny Devito’s version of the Joker came to mind. A few nondescript sunbathers, all male, were scattered around the rest of the poolside area.
In the water were four older and younger children. My estimate is there was a six-year gap between the oldest of the youngest children and the youngest of the oldest children. Thus, there were two younger children and two older children, the older ones barely being teenaged.
When I arrived, one of the older children, a boy, was taking pictures of the other older boy as he did back flips into the water. The two smaller children - a girl and a boy, the girl being smallest – splashed around the pool. The girl was wearing arm floaters. The boy was not. He was tall enough to stand in the shallow end. The girl was not.
Soon after I arrived, the photographer got bored with the back flip photography game and left. This did not seem to faze the back flipper in the least. He then jumped into the pool with one more back flip and splashed around with the two smaller children who at this point, I assumed were his younger siblings.
The older boy played with the younger two with a mixture of love and unnecessary roughness. At times, he would hold his sister close to his chest and kiss her on the top of the head like she was the most valuable treasure in the world and then five minutes later he would be splashing her mercilessly.
I spied him teaching his younger brother how to hold his breath after one failed attempt of dunking his brother and his brother coming up coughing and gasping for breath. But then, he showed his brother by example how to hold his breath and go under water. The little boy tried and succeeded and did it ten more times to make sure he actually could, in this episode was a brotherly tenderness, a tiny achievement, a snapshot of a metaphysical building block.
But then, a few minutes after this achievement, the older brother started a splashing game against both siblings that escalated to the point where the little brother tried to climb out of the pool just to be tickled and dragged back in by the older brother. At this point, I thought I might intervene but then the older brother let the little brother get out of the pool. But then, lo and behold, the little brother was just getting out to jump back in.
My assumption was if the roughhousing was too rough that the little brother would just go home but he didn’t. He kept coming back for more. So this went on for sometime and I went back to reading my book. Then I heard some screaming. At which time, I looked up from my book.
At that time, one of the sunbathers at the opposite end of the pool, whom I had not really given much notice, an older Arabic gentleman with a mustache, ran yelling down to my end of the pool where the children were splashing. There was a confusion of voices:
“Stop that! Stop that! What are you doing?!”
“But he is my brother.”
"Arabic," the man saying more heated than before and then adding in English, “Where is the attendant? I want your names and your parents' names.”
The attendant arrived.
“He is trying to drown his brother! Get his name from the registry! Call his parents! He is trying to drown his brother.”
This went on for a few minutes. The attendant, a Filipino, did not seem to know what to do. He just stood there in between the mustached man, who was still near his end of the pool, and the children, who were in the pool mute, the older boy trying to defend himself but finally just going silent.
Should the older boy; should he have dragged his brother around by the legs in the pool? No, probably not. Was the mustached man right in jumping up and intervening? Actually, yes, probably so.
There are signs posted at the pool that there is to be no one at the pool under 12 without a guardian. And a boy, who is not much older than 12, would probably not qualify as a guardian.
After the brouhaha, the scolded boy huddled in the pool with his siblings. What they huddled about, I cannot be certain but I would surmise that it had to do with the aforementioned altercation. Then they just stood there in the shallow end - the little girl with her arm floaters; the little boy with his smallness; the older brother with his weight. Maybe the older boy felt gravity; maybe he felt it for the first time ever. Maybe he realized that his young siblings were not much sturdier than plastic dolls, china cups.
Shortly after, the younger brother conferred with his brother and then got out of the pool and went into the locker area. The older brother hugged his little sister and held her to his chest and asked her something. Both of them then got out of the pool and he carried her, so that she would not burn her feet, across the pool area to the other side where their towels and belongings were. He then dried her off with the tenderness of a father. At this time, the younger brother came out of the locker room and raced over to where they were, the older brother still tenderly drying off his tiny sister.