I started writing this short story on the 28th August 2009. It was finished on paper when I was in China (2010-2013) but then I lost the papers in my several moves. And today, 10/05-2016 (1 year anniversary), when the feeling of being a 5th man myself is so strong, I wanted to finish and finally publish it.
The 4 of them were used to meet only Friday nights. They did not really know each other. Until that Friday they hand only one thing in common, or at least a thing they knew they had in common. Maybe they liked the same food, the same TV shows or ice cream. Maybe but they never talked to each other. So, the only thing they had in common, the 4 of them, was the pleasure to spend 1 hour every Friday evening in the Jacuzzi of the local public bath. Exactly at 9 pm, all the 4 of them used to meet at the Jacuzzi, exchange formal “good evening”, set 4 perfectly folded towels on the bench along the wall and enter the large square bath. Sitting at each rounded corner, every week the same place. The bubble exhaust was on the lateral side, with smaller exhausts at the corners, just for an extra massage on the back. Toward the center of the bath, along the diagonals there were also smaller bubble exhausts, for a great leg massage. Even when the 4 men extended their legs, they never touched each other. Every Friday, after the formal exchange of the four “good evening”, for the next hour one could hear only the sound of the gurgling water. One hour during which 4 lives, problems, demanding jobs, love affairs, children issues, wives complaints, mortgages all disappeared. After 1 hour, the 4 men would just stand, get out of the bath in the same way they got in, exchange a single formal “good bye” and leave, getting back to their lives. Until that Friday.
That Friday, after the 4 men settled in the typical positions, after the customary “good evening”, after the hypnotic noise of the bubbling water was the only tangible sound in the room, after the 4 men had closed their eyes and started the meditative relaxing hour, after all was the same as any other previous Friday and in their mind it would have been the same for all the following Fridays, after all of this.. a 5th men entered the room. The click of the door was the unexpected sound that made all the 4 men minds get back to reality, that made all the 4 men open slightly the eyes, not fully, not scared, but like predators in the jungle, becoming suddenly aware of the surrounding.
That Friday, a 5th men entered the room with a loud “Wow, this is really a nice place! Look at this Jacuzzi!”, threw his towel on the bench, half covering or displacing some of the 4 perfect folded ones and started walking around the pool looking for a place to enter it, keeping mumbling half phrases to test the communication interest of the 4 men already there. After this inspection that clearly showed none of the men in the pool was going to move aside to let him sit also on one corner, he decided, what the heck!, there is still space along the pool sides or even in the middle, so he entered in the gurgling water and sat there. Not in the middle of the side where the was one of the larger water exhaust but closer to one corner, closer to one of the 4 men, who did not move of a millimeter, still keeping the eyes opened just a slit, like his other 3 Friday companions.
The fact that one of the 4 men did not move was wrongly interpreted by the 5th man as an opening for conversation, so he started chatting over about how nice and relaxing the water was, how hypnotic and pleasant the bubbles were, how nice was to share this moment with other equal minded people who could appreciate the same small modern technology gifts, after a long working week. But sitting along the side was not that comfortable, giving the pressure of the water coming out from the side opening. So the 5th man kept moving and re-positioning both his body and his legs, getting closer to one of the 4 men at the corners, and involuntary kicking the distended legs of all 4 men. Until, after several unsuccessful attempts to find a good position along the too short side, he decided to give a try to the center of the pool, where the water exhaust seemed at a lower pressure than the side ones. So awkwardly he moved to the center of the Jacuzzi pool, squatting and crawling in the bubbling water, stepping on toes and ankles that were not fast enough to retreat. And he settled there, half standing on his crouched legs, half floating in the swirling water, and amazing s it could seem, he kept talking.
The 4 men at the corners, now with the legs pulled in, uncomfortably, the eyes still barely open, just a slit, with the mind anything but relaxed, still kept their silence. But it was not the typical meditation-like silence, full of joy in their typical Friday pool time. There was nothing typical that Friday. And the 5th man suddenly said: “I must make this a tradition as well, this water is so enjoyable, I must come earlier next Friday and take one of the corners, I am sure you won’t mind, right?”.. words that suddenly made the 4 men fully aware of the situation, totally mentally present, no more half dreaming that was only an unfortunate Friday but it could be the end of their weekly highlight..
..and just like that, like snakes or predators detecting a moment of weakness of their prey, the 4 men acted, without a word being exchanged among them, but they reacted as single brain commanding an action: 8 legs stretched forward at lightning speed and grabbed, hooked, locked and blocked the 5th man pulling him under the swirling hypnotic relaxing bubbling water and with the power of their strong and determined muscles they kept the man underwater until his body stop thrashing, until nothing was disturbing anymore the water besides the Jacuzzi created waves, swirling bubbling relaxing as any other Friday.
The 4 men then stood up, exchanged the typical “good bye”, grab their neatly folded towels (leaving a messy one at the feet of the bench), dried up and left the Jacuzzi room with the knowledge incident can always happen and the Friday of the following week will be as good and as event less as the previous one.
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…and it is time to turn the page, time is good as any other minute before and better as any other minute after..
and let some feelings fade away..
..leaving a last tear, drying up outside the eye, letting it escape, not afraid to show weakness..