The sun is piercing through the thin veil of the curtains and I painfully force my eyes open. I hurriedly swallow some breakfast, letting my friends take the lead in all decisions. My mind is a blur of drowsiness and rising fears. In an hour I will go diving for the very first time in my life.
I dress mechanically, the fabric of my swimming suit feeling odd against my skin. I have not worn it for almost two years. We get out of the apartment and climb in the car. I can barely speak as we drive off, the knot in my stomach tightening with every bend of the road and my head slowly spinning. I want to get my feet on solid ground and draw in fresh air to regain control but I can’t. I am trapped in this car and can only focus on my breathing to remain calm. I am still above ground.
We finally reach the beach and it is only with great effort that I do not rush out. The air feels warm in my lungs and for an instant I feel relieved but soon I am reminded that we are not here to unwind on the sand. I can feel the knot in my stomach tightening again as I carry my load down to the shore. We unpack and goof around as we get dressed. I look like a ninja in the full body swimming suit and it is easy to joke and play. It keeps the anxiety at bay and eases my respiration.
My friend is suddenly beckoning me to the water and I cannot laugh anymore, can barely smile. The air has run out. I step towards the water’s edge, every movement becoming a conscious decision to move forward and not listen to every inch of my body ordering me to turn back. My feet touch the sea and slowly its level rises around me. I am afraid.
I have always been afraid of the sea. It tantalises me and feels me with dread. It is a body so huge, a source of life for so much but human beings. I do not belong and am not meant to invade this space. I am not the strongest, not even in control. The sea decides and if it chooses to, it can swallow me in a second, engulfing all traces of my existence in its endless depths.
My feet can’t touch the sand anymore. I feel my heartbeat accelerate but I ignore it. I am still breathing. I put on my mask, bite into the mouth piece. I am still breathing. My friend looks at me and I understand we need to dive. I follow him under water maintaining my eyes open and suddenly the world changes. I cannot breathe, I lose control, I want to rip off my mask and inhale a big gulp of fresh air but I can’t. I can’t. I am underwater.
We resurface and I gasp. I did not expect my body to take control over me. I know I can breathe underwater. We have oxygen bottles and I have been practising inhaling through the mouth piece. I know it works but it still takes me three attempts before I can take master my urge to rip off the mask, and from then on a raging battle is taking place between my anxiety and the absolute wonder of the world being revealed to me.
It is flowing and I have no control over where it takes me. I let myself drift away, my body spinning where it sees fit. I blindingly trust my friend to keep me safe while my mind wander around this blue magnificent world. It is just like on TV, all so liquid and foreign, so graceful and unexplainable.
My friend leads me deeper and I become aware once more of the rising and falling of my chest. I can sense my body winning the battle. I try to ignore it but soon my ear starts to ache and my mind is tired of fighting and surrenders. I ask to go up.
I relax on a rock and watch as my friend goes back underwater. I do not know how he manages it but in that instant I do not care. I am safe once more. The sea has not swallowed me. I am grateful that it granted me the honour to glimpse at its beauty. I know it was a privilege as I watch the small waves break on the rocks, reminding me that I am not the strongest.
The waves come and go peacefully, my respiration relaxes and deepens, and I smile. I am proud of myself for having braved my fears but I know I will not try again to venture into this liquid world. I am too much in awe of the sea.