the dream

I hurried through morning chores so I could be at the pool as soon as it opened. As a teenager, I lived to swim, swimming and diving were my life. I performed every kind of high board acrobatic: flips, back dives, swan dives, jack knives and anything else suggested. Completely without fear, I was the daughter of Neptune and the water was my home. My skills were openly applauded by spectators and lifeguards who passed time dreaming up new and different variations for me to try. I was willing and able to match anything they offered.

One hot summer evening I tossed and turned in my bed, unable to sleep. My mind was spinning and I couldn’t quiet. When I finally dosed off, I wished I hadn’t because I slipped into an alarming dream.  I was measuring my steps on the high board and pacing them off as usual; one, two, three. But in the dream, as I lifted my arms to take flight on the final spring, my foot twisted to the right, my head caught on the board and I fell unconscious and bloody into the water. The dream woke me, breathless and frightened. My white sheet fell to the floor as I bolted from bed and walked through the house attempting to rid myself of its memory. In the morning I dismissed the whole thing as indigestion.

But the next time I went to the pool, I became irritated, restless and uncomfortable. Dread hung over me like a cloud I couldn’t shake or identify – a nasty mood. I swam a few laps to free myself then dripped from the pool and made my way to the board. I wrapped my fingers around the ladder and climbed to the top. I held the side bars and began measuring my steps, creating a shadow version of the dive I would do. When I got to number three, a voice spoke to me. Remember your dream, it said.  I froze, as I relived the images of raised arms, the slip of the right foot and the unconscious fall into the water. There was no way I was going to risk anything with those dark images in my head.

I looked behind me and saw a long line of swimmers waiting to use the board. Too late to back down, I thought, so I jumped off the end, carefully, the way a beginner would jump – and slid safely into the water.

What was that? the life guard smirked.  I climbed from the pool and wrapped myself in a towel. The end of my career on the high board, I answered and meant it.

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