I wanted to know what flying was like until a few months ago. That day, my father and I woke up at four in the morning to pack our car with our new swimming mask, fins, and water shoes, then drove to Pompano Beach, Florida to go scuba diving for the first time. While he did so with great enthusiasm, I, having barely retained any of the information relayed to me in the online diving course, did so begrudgingly.
My reservations weren’t put at ease when I found out that one of the four dives of the weekend would take place in water with depths of sixty feet. However, I didn’t think I could ever live with myself if I had to tell everyone I backed out because of fear, so I kept it to myself. I kept this attitude and boarded the boat bravely when it came, but truthfully every rock of the boat sent my stomach and mind on a twisting spiral.
Once we were a mile out into the ocean where I could just make out a line in the distance to mark the beach, a seasickness washed over me so badly that it trumped any desire to stay on that ship. With my fins flopping around and a giant, heavy tank of air attached to my back, I made my way to the edge of the boat and kept my eyes pinned on the rocking horizon as I took a huge step out.
The surface was chaotic. Waves rammed over my face with a harshness that left me struggling for air, even with my mouthpiece in. In between assaults, I caught my instructor’s signal to deflate the packs on our backs keeping us afloat. As the air bubbled out, I found myself sinking into the ocean, gallons upon gallons of sea piling above me, pushing me deeper.
It wasn’t quite the way I had imagined it. After finding my father through the slightly murky water, I looked down, where I could just see the ocean floor coming into vision. I had expected it to feel like I was falling away from the world with no escape. When I found myself getting closer and closer, though, I found myself focusing less on the world I was leaving, and more on the world I was visiting.
Colors cascaded around me in swarms of fish, as if I was just part of the water they were swimming through. The ocean floor, too, lit up with varieties of greens and purples and blues of coral to be so bright it looked like a Mardi Gras festival. I found myself wondering how I could ever have looked over the fact that such a beautiful thing exists. I felt my eyes widen as I hit the sand, and I knew there’d be no way to relax them. Not when they’re this overwhelmed.
More amazement came when I lifted off the ground. I kicked my fins back and found myself rocketing through the water. I propelled myself past schools of fish and coral reefs. Some of the coral looked like skeletons of leaves, while others had a stiffer, rocky build. I flipped over in the water, and suddenly remembered every mermaid show I watched as a kid. Once I was sure no one was watching, I arched my body and did a dolphin kick. The abrupt movement sent the tank on my back ramming into my neck and then my leg, but it was worth it to feel like I was living the life of those shows for just a moment.
It was easy to forget things. My previous life of moving two-dimensionally was replaced with this new one where I could fly. It was weird to think that I was still the same person, and that I wouldn’t be here forever. At one point, I remembered my mother, and how she’d been worried about me diving. I scanned over the sand until I found a flat, empty shell. I tucked it into my bathing suit to bring home to her.
The time came too quickly to go back to the surface, as others in the group were running low on air. We slowly inflated the packs on our backs and made our way up. I could feel the current regain its control over me. Then I was back at the top, waves bashing my face, now baking in the sun.
After we all got back on the boat, my diving instructor, knowing I love to write, joked that I’d better type up an award-winner about the experience.
I told him that I was already cooking up metaphors. But really, I was just excited to get back on the boat and head to our next dive.