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Buffalo Co-Lab advances an equitable economy and democratic community, collaboratively integrating scholarly and practical understanding to strengthen civic action.

The pools are closed

José Roque Pérez-Zetune

By José Roque Pérez-Zetune

I can’t stop thinking about how the city closed its pools for the summer. 

 

In the July heat, I’ve overheard moms at my placement frantically talk about the different summer programs and day-camps they enrolled their children in. One mother in particular spoke of her children’s summer schedule like a sergeant. She listed off her children and gave everyone within earshot an itinerary of June to August, 7 am to 7pm. “Gotta keep em busy. Gotta keep em busy.” 

 

It’s a mantra. A prayer of sorts. The mother repeated it to me. Advice for when I have my own children. Advice for herself in case she forgot. Gotta keep em busy. It was a group prayer of working class moms, Black and white, wishing the best for their children. Gotta keep em busy. The “smart ones” are less of a worry. The “troublemakers” make the group of women gnaw at their nails. Gotta keep em busy. I understand their fear. Gotta keep em busy. Maybe they’ll pick up upper-class mannerisms at camp – that’ll serve them well when they get stopped by a cop at a traffic light, alongside knot tying and tie-dying. 

 

Part of me wonders what camp in the city looks like. 

 

When I went to camp back home, we would walk to the edge of our backyards and keep on going. The edge of our worlds would collapse in the summer. I learned of climate change by the constantly lowering river bank, the explosion of ticks, and white supremacists making Gettysburg their summer getaway. Children pick up on these things. 

 

Little kids’ feet burn with the friction of tag and scorching concrete. Tree-less streets are experiments in the ongoing ecological crisis for our burgeoning scientists. How hot do our streets get without the canopy of Oaks and Maples? How much toxic waste have the Fords dumped in our waters? And how much Kingsford does one need to make smores with the grills at MLK Park? 

 

I hope the kids aren’t hot after a hard day of scientific study. The pools are closed. 

 

Their relief will come in the small spurts of the water pads. The city hasn’t closed those. Yet. Those meager spurts are a tease of relief, more than anything. When you walk down the waterfront, past Front Park, down to LaSalle, you’ll see a tease of relief is more than enough to keep everyone entertained. Cackles of laughter from kids and adults alike. But how sweet is the relief of jumping into a public pool in the middle of July. The anticipation of walking to the edge. Of water dripping from your hair with every step. The world is yours. Your knees shake for just a moment before swatting the nerves away with a cannon ball. Relief. We all need relief.