On Saturdays I’d ride my bike to Lake Lorraine. I’d swim away from the shore until the water dropped five degrees as the depth took hold. The small fish stayed by the beach, content with French fries and laughter.
I’d swim all the way out to the high dive, where only the boys and the older girls would go. “Here comes the tomboy,” they’d call, or sometimes, “Look, it’s the mailman’s daughter!” I would pretend their words were for someone else. I was always good at pretending. The taunts, the snickers, the friendlessness didn’t bother me.
I was alone, Jo. Weren’t you alone?
At the reunion a sticky blonde said that I used to glow. She said her name was—Emma? Bethany? Blair?—and that she was at the lake sometimes and always saw an aura around me. She said at school I used to float through the cafeteria, untouched and unnerved.
All I could do while she spoke was stare at her panty-hose and count how many times in my life I’d actually worn a dress. I think I got to four.
When she finally walked away from her silent conversationalist, I saw it. On her shimmering satin back appeared a beanstalk girl on the high dive. You cannot see it, but she is very afraid.
The girl floats up into the air, her eyes closed, and a shimmering light encompasses her. She pivots and heads back down and enters the water in a straight, foamless line. My God, she is beautiful.
What you cannot see is that under the water she has lost her breath. You cannot see that she is afraid, and begins to flail, fighting to surface with all her might.
J.M. Cinq-Mars lives in Massachusetts and writes on the moon. She is annoyed by her word processor’s habit of underlining the ‘Cinq’ in her last name. She once drove for a year with an expired license, which was kindly pointed out to her by a state trooper. Her court appearance is in May.