You’ll say I’m making metaphors, but this is how it happened. You could ask around. There are witnesses, disappointed people who repeat the tale to teach their children a lesson. I was a diver with a feeling for the calculus. As the body bends the board, so the board propels the body into its arc; you either feel it or you don’t, but nobody feels it the first time. Thousands of dives over hundreds of cold water mornings are only the beginning of the training. The head must be emptied over long wet weekends until nothing finds room inside the skull but inner ear mechanics and a flat plane of blue water rushing upward as it curves. I looked out from the top of the ladder and saw the horizon and heard the spectators and the judges below, my teammates, my family, my coach. The long board was another plane, as lonely as a pirate’s plank. I was above it all, about to take the four short steps and throw myself at numbers. I needed two nines and a ten to win. My teammates couldn’t help. I’d practiced putting them and everything out of my mind. I bent the board. It tossed me over water, and as I forward flipped I thought, “What is this? How is this a team?” and quit. Where the head leads, the diver’s body follows. I pulled my thighs into my chest and locked my hands around my ankles; I pressed my forehead to my knees; I hugged myself, chuckled and fell. I broke the water like a meteor and felt the plume rush past me as it geysered from the pool: a perfect cannonball. It’s quiet underwater where there are no teams and all you need to know is which way is up.

Copyright © June 3, 2007 David Hodges