It's been a year. It's been a year and the one thing that I promised myself a year ago was that I would sort myself out and be in a better place now than I was then. And I am, I guess. Maybe I'm just in a different place. It probably doesn't matter one way or another. I still feel sick to the stomach thinking about what might have been, if I hadn't been injured. Thinking about my name still being up on that goddamned record board, thinking about what life would be like without migraines, without depression, without any of this crap. Thinking that I would have liked to be a varsity athlete these past two years, I would have liked that a lot. Thinking that I would have liked to have dove at my last divisionals, and allstars, and all of those meets.
I think about Sandra a lot, too, and Krista. Sandra can still dive but doesn't, Krista left the sport because of a knee injury. I remember all the times that Krista would be sitting on the side of the pool with a knee brace because she needed corrective surgery. All that and she still kept coaching. I wish I could have been that strong. Or maybe I am, but I haven't found the right place to coach. Maybe I'll pick it up again in graduate school. Maybe I'll go back to the sport I love.
Nothing has been able to replace it. Even though I get headaches just being in a pool for more than an hour or two, even though it's terrifying and heartbreaking at the same time, the only thing that even came close to replacing it was circus, and only that because of the pain and the fear and the stress, and the wonderful, warm, strong women who made it through all of that. I was constantly in awe, and it kept me coming back. But it was too far away, maybe too painful, maybe too much a lifestyle. I didn't have the guts to go in for the whole lifestyle, I wanted to still be a diver on the inside, long, naturally colored hair and no tattoos - don't scare the judges, they're really prudish old men on the inside - and that wasn't what they were. They were rebellious, dangerous, scary. Exciting.
There's a story there, I keep telling myself. I know there's a story there, about someone tempted by rebellion and danger but never quite getting there, someone who desperately wants to fly but not to run away from home. It's Peter Pan, really. Teach me to fly? Adventures? Mermaids? Pirates? Sure, but I need to be home by midnight, or my parents will be furious. I need to be home and study and work and get into a good graduate school and...
They wrote an article about her, about how wonderful she is. They mentioned me - I got her into the sport, after all, and it was my records she broke, but it's irrelevant why I wasn't around to keep the records, why she was the one the article was about and not me. And in general, the injury and the aftermath and everything that happened that year is irrelevant, it's the part of my life I want to look back on the least, it's the part everyone wants to forget, to pretend didn't happen. It would be easier for everyone if I had just decided I didn't much like diving, if I had just decided I needed more time for my studies or something. It might have been easier if it was just that I hated her, hated her with every bone in my body, and couldn't stand being near her enough to make the team worth it. The pain, in my head and my gut and just about everywhere, is too much. I feel like an exile, forced from a place and a life that should have, by all rights, been mine. It was stolen, and what do I have instead? Memories, migraines, and almost epileptic fits.
I don't like thinking about it anymore. I like pretending that I had a choice, that I know this is all for the best, that I decided I didn't want to dive. I like pretending I had control, that I could go back anytime and there would be no risk, no danger, no pain, just the normal fear and standard woes of returning to a sport. But it's not true.
I remember the look on my high school coach's face when he heard. He checks up with my parents now, regularly, to make sure that I'm doing okay. The man took us on a trip to Cuba (it was a trip that defined me, so much of it) and I like to pretend that the reason he could was because he was a CIA spook. He had a friend high up, and could get one of the last visas, or maybe he needed cover for a covert op. It was supposed to be a trip for comparative government students, and everyone else was in AP comparative government, but they were my friends and I knew the coach and so even though I didn't speak spanish and even though I wasn't particularly interested in politics and history, I tagged along. I visit him whenever I go home. He checks with my parents to make sure I'm doing okay, to make sure I'm dealing with the loss.
Sandra does too. I have a handful of dive coaches at home who sympathize with me, who invite me to coach with them, who want me to stick with the sport (like they did) even through my exile. It isn't the sport that did it, they say, just a few stupid people and one very stupid coach.
Jenn isn't coaching anymore. She could be. She abandoned the sport.
I wouldn't be surprised if Ashley never sets foot on a diving board again. I think she's only in it for the attention.
They said I wasn't dedicated.
They said I didn't love the sport.
Well, I loved the sport. Just thinking about it makes me cry anymore. I still love the sport.
But they don't write articles about things like that, not when they want to make our athletics department seem good, cool, a fun place to be. And the only amazing thing I've done is survive. If that counts as amazing.