The Deep End

diving_boardTen.  She stood at the end of the diving board, cold and wet and wishing she were anywhere else.  Why was she here?  What was the point?  Couldn’t she just go back to other side of the pool with the rest of the class?  Please?

Nine.  Toes to the edge, the board bowed slightly downward under her weight, directing her gaze toward the water.  It was darker than the rest of the pool, deeper.  She wondered if it was colder too.  That’s how it looked; cold and scary…terrifying really.  What was her mother thinking, letting them put her here?  She clearly thought it was no big deal.  She was wrong.

Eight.  The other instructor was there now.  He was smiling and treading water and trying to make it look like fun she guessed.  It didn’t.  Look like fun, that is.

Seven.  “Come on,” he said.  “It’s easy.  Just jump in and I’ll be right here.  You can do this.”  As if the thought of entering the bottomless pit of water was not bad enough, she was now aware of a growing audience.

Six.   With fearful anticipation swelling and swirling inside of her head, she wondered how it was possible to move from face in the water blowing bubbles to standing terrified on the diving board in what seemed like the blink of an eye.  Was this the reward for following the rules?  For doing exactly what they ask of you?  Looking back upon this experience years later, she would recognize the lesson that would repeat itself many times throughout her life:  Jump over the bar and they move it higher next time.

Five.   “C’mon!  You can do it!  Let’s go!”  There were more people watching now.

Four.  Raising her eyes from the deepness, she surveyed the side of the pool which, until today, had not held any interest for her.   There was a 9 painted on the wall; 9 ½ painted near the place they wanted her to jump.  Even on the other side of the pool, with the 4 painted on the wall, her toes could not touch bottom without all but perhaps the very tip top of her head below the water.  She wondered if it was possible to jump in without going all the way under.

Three.  And then she noticed it…the ladder.  Her salvation if she could reach it.  The pool was more narrow down here at the deep end than it was on the other side.  If she could manage to jump out far enough, she just might be able to land within reach of it.  She’d have to jump sideways, though, not straight out like they were expecting.

Two.  They were growing impatient.  Everyone was encouraging her now.  Right.  “I can do this,” she thought.  Perhaps not the “this” they were hoping for, but she would make the leap and grab the ladder and be done and never have to return to the deep blue water that wanted to swallow her up.

One.  Closing her eyes and holding her nose shut tight, she jumped.  Sideways.  As far and as hard as she could.  The cold enveloped her body but she hit her target and grabbed the ladder before sinking beneath the surface.  And just like that it was over…done.  Her teacher was there with a towel and together they walked back to the other side of the pool for the end of the day’s lesson.

There would be many more visits to the deep end in her lifetime.  Some just as terrifying but often worth the leap.  Others when she would race to the end of the diving board, flying blindly toward the water.  Belly flops and swan dives alike would fill her future.   Courage would be needed at times as much to refuse as to jump and only age and experience would be able to teach her the difference.

©Kelly Rainey and, 2015.


**This story inspired the creation of more art.  Take a look.  But first…

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