Sep 15, 2006

REEFER MADNESS
ROATAN, Honduras –  Only ten inches of water covers the reef in places. Unable to kick or stroke properly, I scull – hands fanning figure-eights, that old swimmer's drill.

I must not touch the reef. Even a fingerprint kills the coral, already so degraded. I wiggle towards the sandy patch where Tim and Vlastya stand.

"Gorgeous, but tough going," we all agree, gasping for breath.

So we snorkel toward the deeper water. The bottom falls away. Turquoise screams into navy, stretching from here to eternity. The reef's edge.

I raise my head and see the boat. Damn. We're in the channel now – without a buoy, like morons.

Treading water, I push my body as high as possible above the water line. As a lifeguard, half a lifetime ago, I practiced this eggbeater kick for hours. Thankfully, the motion is fossilized into my muscles.

The dinghy cuts closer, closer, then veers. The captain nods. I flick my hand in return, careful not to wave – the diver distress signal.

We are merely foolish, not endangered, after all.

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