A drag off my regulator brings oxygen to my blood. With each exhalation, bubbles percuss toward the surface of the sea, via the curve of my face and through the wet curls on my scalp. I sense the excitation of tiny hairs on my skin raising in this rush, a contrast to the constant pressure of the ocean and its wombish support of my existence. I remember laying my head in my mother's lap as she stroked my face and hair. Although it is not dark in this underwater playground, the sun high and refracting above this soothing bluish hue, and although my body is not constricted into an egg of flexion, I remember an ancient, sacred space and long to be enveloped by my own mother's voice, to have my heart's cadence set by hers.
If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it still make a sound? The terror of ceasing to exist always interrupts the serenity of my solitude, so perhaps my answer to that unanswerable question is "yes". I try to catch another diver's attention but forget to use hand signals. Without thinking I speak into the mouthpiece I am clenching with my teeth, and lose my words and vision simultaneously as my thoughts explode before me. I am still learning how to rest in the encapsulation of my own atmosphere.
The coral at this reef grows upward in popcorn-shaped structures because here, the current is weak and does not wear it into smoother shapes. Tang, butterflies and angels graze the surface, like birds and insects in a field of wildflowers.
Hovering just past the reef, a puffer gazes at me, as if to extend an invitation. IS this a dream? No matter, for now in my solitude, I am no longer alone. My presence does not threaten, and she keeps her poisonous weapons concealed.
I follow the exotic beauty over peaks and through crevasses in the live rock, losing myself in this dance of surreality. She swims upward and I follow. She turns to confirm my presence every minute or so, then continues her tour. We dance a few movements of tide, and then she is gone where I cannot follow.
I reluctantly return to the ease of my natural environment on the deck of the boat and head back to shore.