Diving Board

pett ripples 2
Loretta raises her arms in the air, leans forward, just for a moment. Now her body is hurtling through the blue and echoing space of the swimming pool, a thin, white bird. She hits the water with a splash, goes under, comes up grinning, thumb in the air, kicks her legs, is out and off again.
There are boys behind me, shoving and grunting, Their familiar accents rise and fall above the pool shrieks and the laughter below. My toes curl against the edge of the board. I feel the slippery wetness under the soles of my feet, the air begin to chill my arms. The board springs a little, is uncertain under my weight.
I look down. The water is blue like a postcard that sits on our mantelpiece next to the old clock that always runs slow. But how far away it is, that water. So much space.
My teeth chatter. I feel the weight of the boys behind me.
‘Gerra move on, won’t yow?’
‘Urry up. Way ent waiting all day.’
I close my eyes, open them again. Raise my arms like Loretta. She’s already at the foot of the diving board, impatient, waiting. I know she is there.
‘Curm on!’
My heart is pitter-pattering like raindrops on the roof. I bend my knees, grit my teeth. The board springs up like a trap. Now I too am hurtling downwards through that long and dangerous space.
I hit the water sooner than expected. Down, down, down. Chlorinated water in my mouth, nose aching. Down here it’s another world, a light and heavy world, the sounds of kids coming from miles away, as if they were inside some large pipe. Like the pipes we play in on the way to Hill Pool.
I surface, gasping, choking, eyes stinging. Everything is blurry and suddenly very loud. I swim to the edge of the pool, grasp onto the ledge, turn my head. Loretta is at the top of the board, fearless. She’ll fly into that water again and again and again. Every holiday till we’re fifteen and she is pregnant but still fearless. Every holiday till we’re fifteen and she has bruises and a black eye and is fearless.

I swim across the reef, miles and miles from home, watching the fish and fronds of anemones like patches of Howard Hodgkin paintings.
I am not fearless.
I tumble under fierce and terrible waves and battle with the board under the weight of a cold, grey sky, the sea scummy and mean.
I am not fearless.
I reach for my son’s arm, feeling the deep, silent current taking my feet.
I am not fearless.
Down, down, down into the silky water, holding my breath. Down, down, down into the weight and the silence, picking up the sea urchin shell, delicate and light as joy. Down, down, down into a transparent and breathless world where light is not what it seems and darkness creeps under the rocks.
Down and down and I am not afraid.

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The home of writer Bronwen Griffiths