I stood at the end of the diving board looking down to the bottom of the pool floor that was littered with saturated band-aids and loose change – why would someone swim with loose change?
I was completely frozen. My toes curled around the board to provide extra security. I was doing all I could to ensure that I wouldn’t fall-in before I tortured myself in pursuit of working up enough courage to jump. The line behind me was growing restless and they started to scream, directing frustration of being a pre-teen, whose hormones were changing more rapidly than a pregnant woman, toward me. Hurling insults that more accurately described me in that moment than encouraging me to take the plunge. It marked the first time in my life the word “pussy” was used as a means of motivation, for pre-teens these kids certainly had a knack for reverse psychology.
Eventually the angry mob came together when one kid started to chant “JUMP! JUMP! JUMP! JUMP!” They all joined in and I began to panic. I closed my eyes and covered my ears hoping to escape this barrage of – when you really break it down to its core – encouragement. As I coward away – this is still at the edge of a diving board remember – the booming chant behind me grew louder and echoed in my mind. Some of the group got on the diving board causing it to bounce up and down. I would assume they believed it would turn the board into a catapult, however I had VERY strong toes.
This is also the closest I have ever gotten to feeling like a cast-away pirate who was walking the plank to his watery grave.
I exited the fetal position and turned around.
“OKAY!” I shouted at the crowd.
I turned back around and faced the water. A few more insults were tossed my way, lazy attempts at hurting my feelings like “come on, Carrot Top!” or “Everyone get back! When this fatty hits the water it’s going to cause a TIDAL WAVE!” or “Are you wearing a shirt because you have a fat belly and boobs?”
“It’s because I get sunburns easily! I have very pale skin!” My response was way to accurate but somehow quieted the crowd.
I took a deep breath and then released it as I jumped. The board launched me into the air and in that moment I had no fears.
Nothing could stop me.
I began to rotate, doing all I could to tuck my head and shoulders hoping to cause enough momentum to carry the rest of my body to complete the 360 degree rotation.
“I’m going to do it!” I thought to myself. “I’ll teach all of these morons.” I smirked after that thought came to mind.
Doing a flip was the cream-of-the-crop and immediately propelled you to super-stardom in certain circles. High-fives abound for anyone who could complete one. Everyone wanted to be your friend. For most – okay, probably all – it would be the closest we would get to being professional athletes. Getting spoken about while you walked around the beach club, random people telling you you’re awesome, legends about someone seeing you do a flip with a twist would be told for ages or, at the very least, until the end of summer.
My personal favorites were being able to cut the line to play Street Fighter II and getting free ice cream from those attempting to win over your affection.
I saw with my own eyes the treasures bestowed upon you once you reached “flip status” – a title, I assure you, I made up and kept to myself. I was jealous, I wanted more, I wanted to reclaim the throne I once sat in when I was the most popular child at Sun ‘N Surf beach club. As I grew up my favor among the people waned and eventually eroded away like the polar ice caps of today. As new waves of people gained entry into my kingdom, my power, of being one of a few red-headed children, became less and less advantageous.
I was becoming a mere blip on the radar of time.
This was my chance to regain lost glory. I had an audience and I knew exactly what I was doing. I had already mastered the art of standing at the end of the diving board with my hands over my head like a shark’s fin and going head first into the water, how much more difficult could this be?
Once I was perpendicular to the ground I knew I was in trouble. Despite the sneak attack I employed on gravity it turns out when you’re ill-equipped it has a perfect record against humans. I began falling fast and started to flail my arms and legs in an attempt to complete the other 180 degrees. I had a moment of relief when my hands, which where stretched out above my head, touched the water. In that split-second I thought all was well and considered myself lucky that I was such a great diver.
The problem was the other four or so feet of body that was left to enter the water. Despite all the leverage water can afford you it still won’t let you do a handstand unless it’s ice!
My body continued its pursuit of a 360 degree flip. I had confidence I would be able to complete it. I was determined to be on top once again, like Shannen Doherty doing Education Connection commercials on late-night TV.
Someone will remember how amazing I was!
My body, however, ran out of real estate and only completed about 270 degrees and then, when my body was parallel, I entered the water with a large slap that caused most people to look to the sky to see if a plane broke the sound barrier.
The air was pushed out of my body and I sank like rock joining the various band-aids and discarded coins. Diving for quarters was a favorite past-time of mine because it allowed me to play Street Fighter II when I was done with the pool for the day.
I looked up from the bottom of the 12 foot diving area and could see various faces looking down from my foe the diving board. Some had looks of concern and others were covering their mouths to stifle laughter, all crowding around the see if I was still in one piece after that horrific episode.
I emerged from the water to absolute silence. No one knew how to react to what just happened. They were also confused on whether my eyes were red from the obscene amount of chlorine in the water or from crying.
I got my courage up and got back on-line. I was going to win these people people over no matter what. I was next up. I was anxious and nervous. I took a deep breath and stepped onto the diving board. As I made my way to the end I shoved the kid standing there into the water to thunderous applause and laughter.
I won them over and I didn’t care that it was at someone else’s expense.