I swim regularly at the local pool. It has a springboard that usually is kept busy by kids jumping off, doing cannonballs, or just running and flailing their legs as they fall into the water.
One day I decided to go off the diving board after my swim. My previous diving experience consisted of many summer days spent with other kids at the community pool. I would run and jump from the diving board, over and over for hours until we were chlorine-soaked, shriveled prunes. We jumped backward and forward; we dived awkwardly and performed the never-fail butt-bump and fall. I probably hadn't been off a diving board since I was 16. Nearly 25 years later I decided it was time to try it again.
An elderly Asian lady stood at the edge of the board looking down at the water. Short and stout, she wore a modest black bathing suit and a white swim cap with rubber-flower flourishes and chin strap. She stared at the water for a while. Then she lifted her arms over her head into a diving position, bent over into a sort of arc and fell into the water. I worried that she had hurt herself, she made such a splash, but she bobbed up and slowly swam to the ladder. I waited for her to clear the pool, and then it was my turn.
I stood on the board, staring at the water, trying to remember what it took to dive into the water without looking like a complete fool. I couldn't quite remember, since I was one of those kids who had done cannonballs and flailed into the water.
I put my hands over my head and sprang tentatively off the board. My legs were bent as I entered the water and I landed with a huge splash. I felt the intense rush and momentary sense of wonder at being so deep underwater. I had forgotten the quiet and the way the water blurs one's vision so that colors and shapes melt together into a Monet-like view. I pushed to the surface. Smiling and exhilarated, I swam to the ladder.
The Asian woman was sitting on a chair trying to catch her breath. I went back to the board. I had to do that again. She took another dive after me and then returned to her chair. I took one last turn and got out. As I was passing her, I half bowed, half crouched and said, "Don't you just love to dive? I love diving!" She smiled and nodded. I am not sure she understood my words, but she understood my enthusiasm.
After that day, I ended each swim with a dive. Some days I would find my friend already at the board; sometimes I was alone. She had stopped trying to dive. She seemed to favor simply jumping from the board straight into the water, feet first. When I saw her I would smile, nod, and bow, indicating my happiness at seeing her at the board. She smiled back, acknowledging that we were both foolishly crazy about the diving board.
It went along this way for months. Then one day, I found two Asian ladies at the diving board. We had a new recruit. The new lady resembled my friend and also wore a black bathing suit and white swim cap.
My friend had taken jumping into the water to new heights by adding some balletlike arm motions. Standing at the edge of the board, she slowly swung her arms up and down, as if she were about to make a glorious dive, then hopped off the board, feet first, her arms held stiffly at her sides. Another time, she stood backwards on the board. Once again she did slow arm motions, back and forth. She brought her her hands into a diving position and then down again as she gracefully hopped into the water.
After four dives, I got out. Water was sloshing around in my ears and I couldn't hear a thing. But the ladies went on, jumping again and again. They were absolutely unstoppable. I left them there, slowly going through their motions and taking turns. I knew one thing for sure: I would see them at the diving board again, my friends who had the hearts of children. I hoped that, next time, I could keep up with them.