Carl climbed the three meter board’s ladder, walked to the end of the board, measuring distance and steps: three long and a quick step before the bounce. He visualized the dive, a front two-and-a-half flip, before extending his body and entering the water as cleanly as possible.
Lanier Jr. High’s diving team had come to the state finals, and Carl had done the dive dozens of times before, usually without a hitch. As he turned to walk back to his starting position, he saw Barb at poolside wearing a bright red one piece swimsuit and sunglasses. His left knee dipped and straightened in a heartbeat.
“Empty your mind, empty…” he thought. But no. There was the image of Barb at the public pool standing opposite Carl as the whistle blew for swimming in the deep end. She looked straight at him, tugged the bottom of her suit, nodded, and together they dove into the pool, down deep, and met underwater. They came close together, hugged and kissed as long as they could hold their breath. Being good swimmers, and oh so young, it was a good long time.
Before surfacing, they swam back to opposite sides of the pool with no one the wiser. Carl stayed in, and while he waited, he thought of that moment’s magic, and how it would stay with him the rest of his life. The eroticism of the shared kiss seemed magnified by the fact that Barb and he had yet to exchange so much as a greeting in the school hall. They were strangers, and strangers they would remain.
“Empty, EMPTY!!” Carl took his steps, and tucked his body at the top of his bounce, only a beat late. He entered the water still half curled. He wanted to stay on the bottom. When he surfaced, he glanced over; Barb was talking to a friend. The judges’ scores were held aloft. It was a subdued ride home in the school bus.
Mike Whitney writes and plays his little songs on a hillside in North Carolina.