FOLLOW THE NOSE. IT ALWAYS KNOWS.
SEATTLE, Washington: An apricot sky flares behind Mount Rainier's snow cone, all plum and violet in the sunrise. A coyote yelp cinches in my throat. Mustn't wake the neighbors, no matter how gilded the sky.
"Friskkk. Fritssssk." For ten minutes, I chip at the windshield with my credit card (no rental contains a scraper after this harsh winter). I bobble the visa from hand to hand, swearing. But the fierce joy remains: today I dive the Hood Canal, my first foray below cold water, on assignment for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
I flare the engine up Phinney Ridge, dodging down I-5, then looping the base of Puget Sound. Mist swaddles the car at points great beekeeper veils of the stuff, obscuring the mountain and the road. I force my foot off the accelerator.
Soon enough. Don't rush.
I sing with the radio: twiddling the dial into a nightmare mashup of alt-pop, oldies and 80s one-hit-wonders. "She was a daytripper," I croon. "Sunday driver, yea."
My voice acapella-trained long ago at Cape Cod Conservatory gutters into a low register, then a cough. No. Say it ain't so.
Congestion. The stop sign of the liquid universe. Without clear pipes, a diver is grounded.
Airborne, Odwalla C-Monster, Gatorade, Kleenex, Sudafed, Nyquil: no brand name erased the burr from my throat, the bruised flutter of my eardrums, the cold's taproots orchid tendrils burrowing deep in my chest.
"I'm healing," I told my editor. "My fever broke several days ago and I can stand up now. I'll be fine to dive, sure."
"Feeling much better," I reassured Don Coleman, the outfitter.
"Looking good," I promised photographer Scott Boyd.
As if words could make it so.
I downshift onto a small squiggle of a road, fluttering tissue like a Bronte heroine. "D@mn. I don't think I can dive," I announce.
Took me so long to find out. I found out.