Dec 5, 2006

TRY NOT TO BREATHE
ISLAS ROSARIO, Colombia –  I fold my knees like a penitent and drift down inside the San Martine wreck.

Not just any wreck. Baby's first wreck.

She's only a fishing boat, but I adore every scrimshaw of sage algae on pink rust, even the caustic white flare of fireworms, disturbed by my clumsy passage. We fin along her flanks, swoop low over her decks, explore her hatches. Furred chainlink stretches into the darkness of one.

A square shimmers, strangely convex, in the ceiling. We rise into the air pocket; vision – wham – slingshots to normal focus. I long to spit my regulator and sample that stale bubble, but I behave. No point pushing things at baby's first wreck ... with an instructor, no less.

Fernando and I ascend along the reef, spooking great, stupid schools of fish. I coast over tubes and spikes and bulges, an architecture straight from George Jetson's dreams.

For three minutes, we linger at 15ft: the safety stop percolates nitrogen from our bloodstreams. I hold my fins, trying not to pogo. Fernando hangs as still and inscrutable as a Buddha.

"What's wrong?" he bellows at the surface. "You're bouncing around and sucking air like a guy, not like a woman who does yoga.

"You're ... you're in love!"

"Quite the opposite," I hiss. "I just stopped seeing a rescue diver."

Fernando's a good man. He doesn't mention my oxygen-guzzling again.

I never gulped air before. But now, with each exhale, I'm trying to purge a terrible weight. The pressure dial plummets.

Oh, it's all pheromones and nostalgia, I know. But the sensation still threatens to rip through my chest into the Caribbean.

I will try not to breathe
I can hold my head still with my hands at my knees
These eyes are the eyes of the old, shivering and bold

– REM

12 comments:

  1. Anonymous3:23 PM

    Wash that man right outta your hair, Ms Castleman!

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  2. When you come to visit me in Cairo, we'll go down to Sharm or Dahab, do some incredible diving under the brightest sunlight on earth.

    But we mustn't dally with the boys there. Otherwise we'll run out of air and our dives will be too short.

    You can even bring your Delsey. But not to sea. I read somewhere that Delsey's damage coral reefs.

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  3. Anonymous, I just chopped six inches off my mane. Will that help?

    In my distraction, it had almost reached my waist. Arghhhhh! I can't be having hippy hair now...

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  4. Marie, m'dear,
    No dalliances, I agree. Those PSIs are too precious.

    But I must defend the Delsey. Its fine polycarbonate shell floats high above the reef and would make an excellent raft for snacks and spare gear. Attach a dive flag and we're in business.

    Happily, I have two sea-worthy spares, because airport thieves and forklifts kept destroying my luggage last year.

    Ma'is salāma, Ax.

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  5. Where's my Automatic For The People CD?

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  6. Ahlan wa sahlan. Bring on the spare Delseys and let's go dive Dahab! I'll even come out of SCUBA retirement for the occasion.

    oops, I think my license is buried deep in my storage locker in New Jersey... maybe I'll man the Delsey and do dive support instead.

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  7. Dingobear: you Canadians are still listening to CDs? Old school!

    What's the next retro trend up north? Acid-washed jeans?

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  8. No copping out, Marie,

    I believe PADI can issue new cards – or the dive shop can simply verify your membership online, Insha'Allah.

    Ax.

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  9. A diligent divemaster9:53 PM

    Great post, but you should include a warning to scuba newbies: the title is ironic because NO MATTER WHAT YOU MUST KEEP BREATHING,

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  10. Um, I'm NAUI, not PADI. It's a northeast thing. Surely they can do the same.

    But instead of the Delsey, I have one POS Travelpro that needs to be used for something other than its intended purpose, for which it seems it is quite useless.

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  11. Ah yes, diligent divemaster, good point.

    Folks if you don't breathe continuously, your lungs could pop like cheap dollar-store balloons. Not fun or funny...

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  12. Marie, I'm thinking planter box for the Travelpro... I read about a woman who converted her ex-boyfriend's beloved cowboy boots to such a purpose. Every day, she lovingly watered her plants, smiling and smiling.

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