When I was a little boy, maybe 7 or 8 I guess, there was a high dive at the city pool. It’s not there anymore. But it was back then. And the city pool was only 2 blocks from my house. Yeah. I pretty much lived there during the summer. All day. My favorite thing to do was back flips off that high dive.
Okay, I’m lying my pants off. My favorite thing to do was look up girls’ shorts while they were sitting on the step by the edge of the pool. But. My second favorite thing to do was back flips off the high dive. I’d climb those steps over and over again all afternoon, each rung a huge stretch for my stubby little short legs. I’ll be honest. I fed off the attention.
Like a goddamn vampire, I did. Even at that age, I knew what I was doing. I wasn’t blind or stupid. I knew I was little. Blond and little. With pigtails. And huge brown eyes. And I knew how to use it. I could hear the gasps from the parents below when I’d turn around and line up my toes just right. The life guards would raise themselves up onto their hands, ready to pounce.
My mom, if she happened to be there, just smiled. Even she knew that I knew what I was doing. I could always tell when I came a bit too close to knocking my noggin on the board because when I’d come up out of the water, people were busy picking their jaw up off the ground and asking if I was okay.
If I cleared the board pretty well, they’d just all grin and shake their heads. It’s strange because the older I got, the more skittish I became, until I finally stopped doing the back flips altogether. Sure, I’d jump and dive, but by the time I was 11 or 12, I was done with the back flips. I don’t know why. Maybe it is because, with age and experience, we come to realize how fallible we are.
How easily the human body can be broken. Perhaps it is because we become less dependent on our parents for our personal safety and begin to develop a keen sense of self protection. Or maybe it is the beginning of the end.
The end of our sense of adventure without caution, jumping before we look because the fall is so damn fun that the landing doesn’t matter, knowing we are terminal from the day we are born and the only thing that matters are the stories between the bookends of birth and death.
I’m sure it’s one of those things. Or a combination. Or some mystic theory dancing in the space between. The high dive isn’t there anymore. But if it was, I’d do back flips today.