Age 12, we dive and dive. For the girl playing dead by the drain in the deep end of the pool. For the pennies we toss in the water by the lifeguard’s chair. From the diving board: three steps, the hurdle, the launch. We come up for air long enough to eat lunch, cheeseburgers and fries drowned in a murder of ketchup. Our bellies, humped and rounded, push against the elastic of our bathing suits as we dive and dive and dive.
At 14, we lie in the gutters of the swimming pool, basting our bellies in baby oil and the occasional wavelets of cool that slop up whenever someone dives in. We pick at burgers without buns, drink cans of Tab poured warm over ice that cracks like knuckles. We learn about calories and fat from the high school girls who shout warnings across the humid locker room. Sometimes we dive but only at the end of the day.
At 18, we arrange chaise lounges and serve up the buffet of ourselves, tasty swell of breasts basted to brown, a feast for the boys teeing off on the first hole. Later we pull out hand mirrors and paint alien faces over our own eyes and lips, wait by the 18th green while they putt out. We prop our feet on the dashboard of their cars, let them drive us to a rutted field off a dirt road where we unzip and dive as if we are starving. We hold our breath, but we’ve already smothered. Already drowned.
Sarah Freligh is the author of Sad Math, winner of the 2014 Moon City Press Poetry Prize and the 2015 Whirling Prize from the University of Indianapolis. Her fiction and poetry have appeared in Sun Magazine, Hotel Amerika, BOAAT Journal, diode, SmokeLong Quarterly, and in the anthology New Microfiction: Exceptionally Short Stories (W.W. Norton, 2018). Among her awards are a 2009 poetry fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and a grant from the Constance Saltonstall Foundation in 2006.
Lead image: “Swimming Pool Pattern #2” (via Flickr user Lee Coursey)