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Flying with Fishes

Clear as Quixiassa, the water in the bay. I follow my shadow, my playmate, skimming the coral reef a foot or so beneath me. The temperature of the water so near my own, and that so near the temperature of the air. It’s as though it were not there, the air or the water. As though they were nothing at all, a benign and embracing opulence of nothing. Even I am almost nothing, buoyed up by the salt of the sea, which they say more or less matches the primordial me. Down into it I dive, I fall; I carress it, it enfolds me. And I’m wafted up and out of myself, and I fly among the fishes. Aha, mm-hm, I’m flying. It is the impossible fantasy, the dream of flying, from which we wake in wonder.

But in this bay, I am flying in waking wonder. I swoop, I roll, I dip my wings, I loop the loop, I buzz the skates. I breathe out my gratitude to my best friends the fishes. The electric blues, the neon yellows, the invisible big-eyed whites; the teenies, the giants—they welcome me, their guest. I would do anything for them now as they suffer me to loll around with them in their world. Nothing comes between us—I fly with them in their wet air, and they’re everywhere, they’re everywhere. Above me below me behind and around. Where is up, what is down, how much is forward, why go back? How do fishes know what they know? I follow them round and round. I preen, I pirouette aloft…

Oh, man—what the—the ground is—oh God. Oh my God what was I thinking—I’m in the air I am in the air—nothing to hold onto! What’s—nothing to hold me up! No fishes here what the hell what the HELL was I thinking—was I asleep, sleep walking maybe? It was so real, I was so sure, I was so longing, I was so needing—how stupid can you get? Maybe I could—Oh God NOTHING! Nothing between me and the ground and my shadow and my death so many—howmany—feet below. What have I squandered, what have I done now that I can’t undo, who will even know? I can’t speak I can’t cry out I can’t even breathe I can’t breathe Ican’t BREATHE. Down, down surely down I am falling, or will fall. And there is time to prepare. Is there time? I'll die before I hit. Will I die before I hit? I was smarter than this I was! and now my imagination has gone ridiculous and psycho and now it’s killing me. It's going to kill me. Should anyway. Any minute now.

Wait, wait a minute, what the—I am flying, is that it? Wait maybe there’s something I could—up up pull up pull UP!

Oh.... Oh, I…Oh.

Oh wow.

Breaking the surface of the bay I look up, and up and up, into the air that fogs my view and embarasses my wet black head. I suddenly see I’m low down, even earth bound, my view barely clearing the curve of the planet. So I’m low, is that it? I’m low, not high. I’m in water. I’m in water. Calmly, calmly now, think. Am I swimming? Yes. This is known to me. Isn't this something I know how to do? Yes. Yes I know how to swim. I’m alright then. If this is water, I’m alright...

On this side of the quay, where I’ve drifted while cavorting with brilliant and witty sargeant majors, unbeknownce to me, my shallow and hospitable coral reef has given way to a sheer rock face that plunges away many stories deep. Now sinking again below the surface of the bay, I see again the scene of my nightmare, see my own shadow very small and far away, on the white ocean highway below, and I am suddenly, again, too high to breathe. But now this, too, is something I've felt before.

We are, after all, perfectly poised, we humans. Not high. Not low. We’re in the middle, from where we may choose to fly, or we may choose to dive, or we may choose to stroll or float, meditate or dare. We may choose to know and we may choose not to know. We may choose to fear. We may choose not to fear. Now I understand, you see. And that, apparently, makes all the difference.

K.E.Watt, Brooklyn, NY
11 July 2000

© 2004, K. E. WATT. All rights reserved.



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