Gyroscope Review 16-1 - Page 42

The Devil is in the Diving Board by Tracy Mishkin A secular Jew of the pool, I don’t believe in goggles anymore. Once I swam a mile each week at summer camp, my eyes cocooned and dry, arms slicing the water as if I had a destination, like my aunt who stole her favorite library books and stored them in her bathroom for difficult days. Back then, ladies called constipation and psychotic breaks “difficult days.” My nemesis was the diving board. Once my feet hit the pebbled texture, I was committed to the plunge. Camp rules: no turning back. Chasm between water and me. Overwrought ninny me. Eeyore before Prozac me. Now I wander in a heated pool like Israelites in the wilderness, side-stroke a hundred feet at best, bored by laps, winded too soon, doubtful of purpose and all institutions, no more inclined to open eyes in water than when I learned to swim in a dark lake. Old Lady Aprison passes me with her retirement stroke, a front crawl alternating with a backstroke so precise she must have learned it from Mark Spitz himself, the hottest pin-up of 1972: Speedo, rebel moustache, seven golds. Mrs. Aprison never bangs her head on the pool wall or feels the sharp dismay of fingers touching frayed blue rope. I’ve been stuck on that diving board forty years, goggles on, unable to press forward, cold minutes passing, the water only a foot below the board, counselors urging me on. Mark the Shark does not materialize. A freckled teen with a zinc cream clown nose leads me back down the plastic steps of shame. Gyroscope Review !34