Sunday, March 6, 2016

How Far I've Come ... A Metaphor

Out in the lagoon there was a head of coral.  Just a single monolith popping up from the sandy floor in ostentatious defiance.  It was surrounded by tiny little clumps of seaweed anchored into the lagoon's sifting, tinkling bottom.  These seaweed clumps made excellent torpedoes.  At low tide, when the water withdrawn so that you could bounce on top of the coral head and keep your face barely above the surface, the lagoon floor was also within reach.  With a bounce above the surface, filling your lungs with air, you could tuck your legs up to your ribs, then with an expulsion of air, jackknife your limbs out, into the water, through the cooling depths, a trail of bubbles streaming behind as you emptied your lungs and sank down, down, down.  And then your fingers brush the bottom, sending little puffs of sand up into the current, and you grasp a clump of seaweed.  Holding it lightly in the cage of your fingers, you tuck again, set your feet against the tinkling bottom and explode upwards, towards the light, towards the mirrored surface and air and the sun.   

We would go out in packs, us kids, to the coral head, to escape the oppressive heat of the village.  There would be ten little heads bouncing up and down as we kept our toes on the coral, with another dozen popping up out of the lagoon like frigate birds after a dive.  We'd take turns resting on the head, then going down for a clump of seaweed.  Releasing the clumps all at once, having a race to see whose spiralled down to the lagoon floor first.  

Sometimes the coral head got too crowded, so I would swoop my lava lava over the surface and trap a bubble of air in it, then gather the ends and float, bobbing in comfort with my own personal floatation device as the air slowly seeped out through the porous cloth.  

When it was time to go back to shore, when the tide started coming in and the sweep of it tugged our tangled limbs, we would race.  Who could swim the longest under water?  This was a game I was good at.  Filling my chest with air, I sucked in more and more of it, imagining I was storing breath in my stomach, in my legs, packing it into my arms.  I was a glutton for air, I feasted on it until I was stuffed so full I couldn't see straight.  Then, with another tuck I leveraged my feet against the coral, then exploded, arrow straight, towards the shore.  A slow seep of bubbles trailing behind me, I worked my arms and legs, in and out like a frog, to push through the salty depths.  The tide helped.  It cradled me and pushed me along towards the ever nearing shore.  The lagoon floor was rising below me.  My stomach was empty of air and now my lungs were starting to leak.  And still I pushed on through the water.  Faster.  Faster.  Riding the tide.  Sweeping in to the beach.  My lungs were empty now and screaming.  I hollowed my chest out, jackknifed my body still further in.  Spots danced in front of my closed eyes.  Still I pushed.  I was dizzy and a little drunk from the lack of oxygen, still reluctant to leave the salty cool world.  One more push.

And just as my mouth wanted to gag open involuntarily, I set my feet against the sand that was now just below me and popped up into the bright air.  Gasping.  Looking around triumphantly to see how far I'd come.