Girl Birth Water Death

by Martha Conway

[girl on a diving board] illustration by xian
Should she or should she not jump?

She always jumped before. Or -- it was not really a jump, it was a fall really, with her arms stretched above her and her pressed-together palms praying in a triangle above her head, her head bent in between looking down, down to the water below like her mother told her, a practice is what her mother calls it, and shutting her eyes, letting her toes not spring but give the slightest lean-push off the scratchy green board and behind her eyes in darkness feeling the fall. The whistle music the air makes going down ends before she is almost even aware, has only just noticed -- oh yes, that -- and then she has broken water and her eyes open to the stinging blueness and she is sinking still but slowing down. Her parents are waiting on the side with her brother whom she leads by the hand when they cross the street and they will clap for her, she is six years old and small all the way high up on the scratchy green board with the sun warm on her back like a hand then falling all the way down to the water and coming up climbing the semi-submerged metal ladder that has for her the rungs a bit too far apart. She is so small, that is why they clap. That is why they bring their guests to the pool to see; today it is Mr. and Mrs. Cooley from Utica, and they stand on the grass by the deep end to watch, with her brother whom she still leads by the hand, waiting to see Laura jump.

Copyright 1995
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