Above-ground pool with dead leaves in it

A true classic. This was your own pool, your slightly wealthier cousin's, or your friend's who also had a trampoline, great snacks, and possibly an alcoholic dad. The above ground pool with leaves in it is a well-known suburban standard in which a sad kid’s eyes can get wistfully lost.

The leaves will remain until a 4th of July party or until a neglected child has just had enough, and needs to pass the time. Occasionally, a dead bird or rodent may be floating atop the still water, allowing you to contemplate the finite nature of life and its hollowness.

Weird, steamy, indoor hotel pool

A lesser-known but undeniably worthy entry, this pool contains a bafflingly tan and leathery old man, who dog paddles laps as you check in. The intense sauna-like air makes you think the water would be warm, but no, it is aggressively cold. It’s ominously green and sort of glowing somehow, a mystery explained when a worker tells you it was easier to add more chlorine than clean it every time there was an incident.

If you’re feeling secure enough in your own body to swim, the water burns your eyes like the mighty acid rain of Chernobyl. This pool is perfect to stare at as your more confident siblings splash away, or even better, alone at night when you sneak out of the hotel room, because you just needed some time for yourself.

Deep puddle in a cracked sidewalk

You encountered this rare yet treasured body of water while trudging home from school with the heaviest backpack imaginable. Looking back, your teachers insisting you bring home all those textbooks seemed like training for some important strength-based event, but you have yet to encounter any such event as an adult.

This puddle appeared after a day or two of heavy rain and seems to contain an entire Atlantian ecosystem. Dead bugs, tiny plants, maybe even some worms joyfully dancing at the bottom, avoiding their usual fate of being dried out in the sun like eggs on a skillet. You stare at the puddle longingly, imagining what it would be like to dance among them, too small to have to deal with any of your problems.

Local river multiple people have definitely died in

This river is perfect to stare at because of its rich history. You’re too lazy and disinterested to look into any of this history, but it’s there. You probably heard that people crossed it during one of the wars, or it served an important part of the town for trade or whatever.

These days, its steady flow serves to hide beer cans the teens throw into it, or to speed along the decay of the bodies rumored to be laying below. But you’re not interested in all that, you’re just on a walk because today has been a lot. You look down at the brownish water that winds downhill, until you’re yelled at by a fisherman because this is apparently private property.

The ocean

All the true “hydro-heads” and “depressed children” had to know this guy was going to make the list. The ocean is the everyman's body of water to stare at when feeling like things won’t ever get better.

You used to like swimming at the beach, then one day your pathetic, uncoordinated body couldn’t handle the waves and your boisterous uncle said something like, “Had a rough time out there, huh?!” Everyone laughed, and that was the end of actively engaging with the ocean. You mainly stared at the ocean in between squinting at a book you weren’t that into, or disappearing under a towel to see the glow of a keyboard phone more clearly.

A frog pond devoid of life

This humble little beauty belonged to your neighbor or a relative. It is absolutely not found in nature. It’s too round and perfect so it’s probably like that one you saw in a big box at the Christmas Tree Shop. Nevertheless, it’s a nice thing to get lost in at this family function you were forced to go to.

It’s surrounded by a variety of little clay statues. One of a red, cartoony mushroom, one of a frog playing a banjo or folksy little drum, and one of a fat gnome laying on its side seductively. This seductive gnome is a big hit with everyone and lets your aunt or whoever know that they killed it last Father’s Day.

When you ask if there are any frogs or fish in it, the owner of said pond laughs and says, “That was a failed experiment.” You look away at the pond, wondering how deep it is and if it’d be possible to dunk your head in it and blissfully drown.


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