Dive

 The dog put his paw on my knee.  He looked soulfully into my eyes.  Raised his ears a fraction. 

“You need a walk?” I asked.  I rose and grabbed his leash.

He jumped up.  He spun circles around me.  He gave a little bark of joy.

He dragged me through the door, nosing through the tall grass, reading the clues of the neighborhood happenings.  He watered here.  He watered there, marking his territory every couple of minutes before moving on, pausing now and again to sample a dandelion in seed.



“You playing this weekend?”

I looked around.  Where had that voice come from?

“I shot a seventy last time.”

I looked up.  A man stood on my neighbor’s roof.  He’d loosened some shingles, exposing the tar paper beneath.  He held a cell phone to his ear.

My stomach lurched.

I despise heights.

* * *
Every summer my sisters and I took swimming lessons at the local college.  Oh, how I dreaded these lessons.  I dreaded looking at my figure in a bathing suit.  I dreaded removing my glasses and setting them on the textured concrete edge of the pool and viewing the world as a smear of color and motion.  I hated the sound of the pool; the way the shouts of the children would echo off the domed roof.  I hated watching the other kids, so confident in the front crawl while I flailed at the water mightily, moving nowhere.  Every week I glanced at the sign: Keep the P out of the ool and I found myself wondering if anyone near me had actually peed in the water.

The last fifteen minutes of swimming lessons were always reserved for free time.  Kids could toss balls into the pool and retrieve them from the bottom.  They could use the floating devices stacked up alongside the wall.  They could even use the diving board at the far end of the pool.

You know, the deep end. 

The scary end.

And one day during free play, I got the strange notion in my head that I would like to try to jump off the diving board into twelve feet water.  No, not the low diving board, which hovered just a few inches over the pool.  No.  For some strange reason, I decided to try the high dive. 

I walked along the tiles, staring at my raisin toes, telling myself with every step that I could do it. 

I got in line.  I stared up at the board.  And then, too quickly, it was my turn.

I grasped the metal bars of the ladder.  Legs trembling, knees knocking, I took step after step after step upon skid-proof metal that jabbed the soles of my feet. 

I climbed and I climbed and I climbed.  It must’ve been fifty steps to the top.  But, finally, I was there.  Finally, I was at the top. 

It was scary at the top. 

I walked a few inches out on the diving board.  It was coated with a slip-resistant material, like stones on shingles. 

 I walked a few more inches out. 

The diving board wobbled.

“Hurry up,” someone groused.

I squinted behind me.  There was a girl there at the top of the board.  She was a real pro.  Bathing cap.  Bikini.  Tan.  Trim.

I edged out further…further…further. 

And then, I was looking down.

Down, down, down into the pool.

Down into twelve feet of water.  I thought about that cartoon, about a man diving into a tiny barrel of water a hundred feet down.

I turned around again.  A line of kids waited on the metal steps of the ladder.

 “Go on!”

I turned back to the water. 

The board bounced a little bit.  My raisin toes hung over the edge.  The surface of the pool rippled.

“Jump already!”

I edged back.

 “Chicken.”

I hung my head in shame.  It was true: I was a chicken.  And I was bailing out.

“Excuse me,” I mumbled to the girl in the bikini.

“Make way, got a fraidy cat coming down the ladder.”

The kids scooted off to the side to allow me passage. 

And the trip down seemed even longer than the trip to the top.






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Writing in the Margins, Bursting at the Seams: Dive

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Dive

 The dog put his paw on my knee.  He looked soulfully into my eyes.  Raised his ears a fraction. 

“You need a walk?” I asked.  I rose and grabbed his leash.

He jumped up.  He spun circles around me.  He gave a little bark of joy.

He dragged me through the door, nosing through the tall grass, reading the clues of the neighborhood happenings.  He watered here.  He watered there, marking his territory every couple of minutes before moving on, pausing now and again to sample a dandelion in seed.



“You playing this weekend?”

I looked around.  Where had that voice come from?

“I shot a seventy last time.”

I looked up.  A man stood on my neighbor’s roof.  He’d loosened some shingles, exposing the tar paper beneath.  He held a cell phone to his ear.

My stomach lurched.

I despise heights.

* * *
Every summer my sisters and I took swimming lessons at the local college.  Oh, how I dreaded these lessons.  I dreaded looking at my figure in a bathing suit.  I dreaded removing my glasses and setting them on the textured concrete edge of the pool and viewing the world as a smear of color and motion.  I hated the sound of the pool; the way the shouts of the children would echo off the domed roof.  I hated watching the other kids, so confident in the front crawl while I flailed at the water mightily, moving nowhere.  Every week I glanced at the sign: Keep the P out of the ool and I found myself wondering if anyone near me had actually peed in the water.

The last fifteen minutes of swimming lessons were always reserved for free time.  Kids could toss balls into the pool and retrieve them from the bottom.  They could use the floating devices stacked up alongside the wall.  They could even use the diving board at the far end of the pool.

You know, the deep end. 

The scary end.

And one day during free play, I got the strange notion in my head that I would like to try to jump off the diving board into twelve feet water.  No, not the low diving board, which hovered just a few inches over the pool.  No.  For some strange reason, I decided to try the high dive. 

I walked along the tiles, staring at my raisin toes, telling myself with every step that I could do it. 

I got in line.  I stared up at the board.  And then, too quickly, it was my turn.

I grasped the metal bars of the ladder.  Legs trembling, knees knocking, I took step after step after step upon skid-proof metal that jabbed the soles of my feet. 

I climbed and I climbed and I climbed.  It must’ve been fifty steps to the top.  But, finally, I was there.  Finally, I was at the top. 

It was scary at the top. 

I walked a few inches out on the diving board.  It was coated with a slip-resistant material, like stones on shingles. 

 I walked a few more inches out. 

The diving board wobbled.

“Hurry up,” someone groused.

I squinted behind me.  There was a girl there at the top of the board.  She was a real pro.  Bathing cap.  Bikini.  Tan.  Trim.

I edged out further…further…further. 

And then, I was looking down.

Down, down, down into the pool.

Down into twelve feet of water.  I thought about that cartoon, about a man diving into a tiny barrel of water a hundred feet down.

I turned around again.  A line of kids waited on the metal steps of the ladder.

 “Go on!”

I turned back to the water. 

The board bounced a little bit.  My raisin toes hung over the edge.  The surface of the pool rippled.

“Jump already!”

I edged back.

 “Chicken.”

I hung my head in shame.  It was true: I was a chicken.  And I was bailing out.

“Excuse me,” I mumbled to the girl in the bikini.

“Make way, got a fraidy cat coming down the ladder.”

The kids scooted off to the side to allow me passage. 

And the trip down seemed even longer than the trip to the top.






Labels: ,

2 Comments:

At April 23, 2012 at 1:12 PM , Anonymous jaum said...

I think everyone has had moments like this... I know I have but I've sworn myself to secrecy, so you will NEVER know.

 
At April 25, 2012 at 4:40 PM , Anonymous Bella said...

Kelly, this wonderfully written post allowed me to see the frightened girl staring down into the pool, overcome with anxiety, and forced to go back down the ladder. I love your writing style! I also love how you introduced your fear of heights with the man changing the shingles on the roof. I was on the swim team for many years growing up. I swam like a fish, still do, as a matter of fact, but I was never a fan of the diving board, and much less the high dive. Much like you, my knees would tremble and knock together when we had to dive. I hated it with a passion. Nowadays, nothing, and I mean nothing will get me to set foot on a diving board! :)

 

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