My hands were sweaty. I opened my palms outward, standing like an anatomy chart and letting the ocean breeze evaporate my fear.
“Cary, pay attention.”
I nodded and focused on the horizon, where people once believed we would fall off into oblivion.
Coach Dade wasn’t much older than me. He graduated from our high school and after college, came back to teach. I’ve only ever seen him wear a baseball cap, polo shirt, khakis, quarter socks, and blue running shoes that molded to the contours of his feet. Sometimes I saw his ankles, in the gap between the hem and the top of his socks. Golden, wiry hair like on his forearms must cover his legs, too.
“Remember,” he said to our team, “you will be judged on form and distance. Do not jump. Do not tiptoe. Do not kick. You have worked hard. Trust your body.”
My best friend Charlie stood beside me. We’re both seniors, but he was a head taller. “You scared, dude?” he whispered. His breath was sour from mouth-breathing like a fish out of water.
“Something the matter, gentlemen?” Dade asked.
“No, Coach,” we answered.
He glanced back and forth between us and then squeezed my shoulder before bringing his cleanshaven face next to mine. “You got this, Cary.” His apple-scented breath tickled my ear. I shivered but tried to hide it.
He pulled away and our gazes met. Under the shadow of his cap, his eyes were the turquoise of the sea below us.
“What if—” I started to ask, half-hoping the wind would whip away my cowardice before he heard it.
The whistle trilled.
“I believe in you.” He stepped back, his arms spread like wings in benediction.
That’s all I needed.
We parted from the earth, soaring, soaring, soaring.