08 March 2009

Cutting through water

Her nostrils flare as the strong smell of chlorine hits her face. She pauses for a moment to let the air move past her then steps across the threshold. The door slowly closes behind her. She feels the rough concrete push against her soft feet urging her forward. She steps, flexing her ankle like a gymnast moving into position. She steps again scanning the large open room before choosing a spot. She picks it because of the barely recognizable number sixteen nestled between two number fifteens.

Her feet fit nicely over the one and the six further wearing the black tiles down. She looks to the left, the lifeguard is busy talking to a friend. She looks to the right and sees the bold black and red sign. “No Diving” it proclaims to all who happen to glance its way. She squints hers eyes and looks back to the lifeguard, the sole representation of authority and enforcement of the sign’s demands. A devious smile creeps across her lips. She avoids making eye contact with the lifeguard who has taken some notice of her. It is too late, he knows. The lifeguard stops his conversation and is focusing intently on her as if by the sheer force of his stare, backed by all his lifeguard super powers, her dive can be adverted. She takes this as a challenge.

She had been planning a quick and simple plunge but no longer. It is her powerful will against the mighty powers of the lifeguard. The smile leaves her face as she diverts all of her concentration on the dive. Normally she wouldn’t need much thought for such a simple dive, but this one was different. She is fighting the lifeguard, locked in a battle of wills, struggling to prove dominance and she is determined to win. She starts her countdown.

Ten. She presses her goggles firmly against her eye sockets. She can both hear and feel the suction of the goggles on her face.

Nine. She claps her hands together. The sound of flesh on flesh echoes from across the pool. She knows there is no going back now. She shifts her hands, carefully placing them atop each other. She wants to look at the lifeguard, but stops herself, knowing that any distraction after the countdown has begun can ruin her entire setup.

Eight. She raises her hands high above her head. It feels like every eye in the room is on her. The sound of frantic splashing surrounds her. People are trying to get out of her defiant way.

Seven. She inhales a deep breath and feels it swirling in her lungs, the chlorine giving a slight chemical burn to everything it touches.

Six. She slowly breathes out. This is it, she says to herself. She knows this will be amazing.

Five. She breathes in her final breath before the dive. She closes her eyes envisioning the perfect dive and the complete defeat of the lifeguard’s tyrannical rule of the pool.

Four.  Her knees bend almost instinctively. Then without thinking she is moving.

Three. Her motion is too great to stop. The powerful contracting of her knees has almost immediate resolved itself into a powerful release sending her surging forward. The smile creeps back across her face.

Two. As her fingers brush the water her body responds by straightening itself ensuring one of the most perfect and flawless dives she has ever made.

One. Her forehead touches the water causing her lungs to slowly expel the air that she had so carefully contained there. The steady stream of air keeps the invasive chlorine rich water out of delicate lungs. They are grateful for the care she has put into keeping them safe.

Her whole body is submerged beneath the glassy ripples of the pool. Her dive has propelled her nearly to the bottom. She flexes her legs to push herself the rest of the way there. Extending her hand she touches the perfectly preserved number sixteen written on the pool bottom. She has, in a moment, accomplished what few ever have and what few ever will. She has defied the almighty lifeguard authority, dived into the pool and touched the sacred sixteen all in one fluid motion. She pulls her feet into her chest and spins on the pool bottom. Like the launch into the pool the curling of her legs triggers their powerful release. The burst of motion pushes her to the surface just feet from where she had first entered the water. At the surface she rewards herself with a breath of fresh air. She doesn’t need to look at the lifeguard to know the distain on his face right now.

She feels the cool current flow across her hand as she reaches through the clear waters. Each extension of her hand splits the water, letting her glide like an angel. Her legs kick in rhythm to her arms moving her to the pool’s end. The other patrons are starting to get back into the pool now that the threat of a dive is over. She now slides through the water innocent of the accusing looks others are giving her.

One lap. Two laps. Three laps. Four laps. She stopped in the shallow end and pulled herself back onto the rough concrete. She smiles and looks at the lifeguard as she thinks about diving in again. She has already given the lifeguard one heart attack; he doesn’t deserve a second. Instead she winks at him then turns away leaving a trail of water drops in her wake. She doesn’t even know who he is, not that it matters much to her. She wants to at least give him a chance before he dies. She grabs the dressing room door handle, but stops before opening it. She turns, tiny water droplets falling from her hair as it swings through the air, and gives him one last look. He winks at her. She smiles and blushes then ducks into the dressing room.

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