If you are small, sometimes you are allowed to do such a thing. More often your parents keep you dangling over the edge, dabbling fingers and throwing pennies, trying to hit the grate or the corner or make a pile on that little shelf there. This is the appeal of a water park: here the fountains are yours and you jump in them as much as your little heart desires.

Real fountains, though, made of bronze and stone and ancient pipes broken somewhere underground so that one fish mouth sprays nothing: real fountains are the proper environment. Fountains with a sculpture of Neptune surrounded by nymphs -- this is the fountain I pass, at the University of Michigan, coming and going home every day -- flat fountains with jets arcing up in programmed patterns -- this is in Tower City, the mall in downtown Cleveland, and would you ever get arrested if you tried to jump in here -- fountains with a billion sprays straight out in a sphere -- this in downtown Naperville, IL, on the edge of the Riverwalk. Fountains out in the sun, their cement rims warm and inviting. You roll up your pant legs, sit kicking up your several toes. The spray catches your eyelids as the wind changes. It is very lovely after you have been walking in the heat for two hours -- here you are in the water, in the combined water and sun and air around you, high contrast of temperature and texture and suddenly sensitive shoeless feet. The granite texture of the floor, the pennies and dimes, round and smooth against it. And then the sun always rising overhead.

It always seems to be July when this happens. It is the dead center of summer and you are trapped against it, because really your favorite season is fall, although you like them all when they get there. This is the center -- the sun is always directly overhead -- the trees are rioting out into the sky, full leaved and breezy. You can breathe: the air does not knife into your lungs like it does in winter. It is almost always Saturday.

Weeknights, when you are walking around in the not yet sunset on the edge of the timezone, you pass the fountain. Teenagers have spilled over into it. A girl in a bandana actually lets go and bellyflops over the edge. It is shallow, but she is apparently unhurt, gets up laughing. She climbs the sculpture and clings full in its spray. The sun is still up, although edging away; the outside will still dry her soon enough.

Full night when you have to get out of the house and sit on the edge of the fountain in your goth dress with the multilayered skirt, throwing all the pennies in your pockets, wishing for everything you can think of. I wish I could write a book, I wish for ice cream and saxophones, I wish for a calliope, I wish for a million dollars, I wish to immigrate to Canada, I wish for my PhD, I wish for chocolate cake, I wish for good thick cheddar ale soup and bread, I wish for lots and lots of flowers but no allergies. It is cool and clear here. The air is still warm around you, but softer, and muted. It is still the night; it is still summer. The breeze is actual breeze and you are cool and happy. Your legs to the knee in water, walking around in circles, petting the bronze fish. Caught in the spray.

The fountain in the rain, in September, when it starts pouring for a week to prep for actual fall. You are out in the outside in your trenchcoats and umbrellas and birkenstocks, almost barefoot but not quite. You are both soaked; the wind sprays itself straight through you. So, already wet, you stay outside walking in the wet, feet splashing in the gutters, hair plastered in draggling locks across your cheeks, umbrellas extraneous at your sides. This is the best time to jump in the fountain. You are wet; it is wet. There is no thunder, just rain and rain and rain. And there is the fountain, shooting its constant jets up against the weather. There is the clear pool. There is the several texture: pounding rain and soft spray and the stillness under the water, the only stillness left in the outside. Your teeth and daring eyes and the sudden warmth of flushed skin. You have nothing to lose here. Drop your umbrella; you don't need it. Take hands. Jump.

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