The light seemed to be far away, moving far from my fingers each time I moved my arms. The space I was in seemed very open and, for a moment, I felt that would be the feeling of being floating in space, without a proper astronaut suit of course. I have no idea why I thought that at that moment. Isn’t the brain supposed to prioritize things in our bodies in order to make us live longer? However, I could almost see the ship I had come out too, floating silently in front of me, and a big planet below me. But all that didn’t matter because I was about to die.
The thought lasted just a second but it was strong enough for me to move faster, to force my tired arms to do a little bit more work. Every single vein and nerve in my body was crying in pain, my brain hurt so much I couldn’t stand it. I had always wished to be taller in order to have bigger arms and feet, which would have helped so much in that moment. But I wasn’t. I was just the opposite of that and I was in a position where wishing was useless.
My last movements towards the light were desperate. It was then when my body felt like it was empty. Every single thing that had no real use, every function that didn’t serve a purpose in that moment, they all disappeared in order to focus on the fact that I was going to die if my body didn’t perform something close to a miracle. Because I had never done what I about to do. It was a triumph I would never really be aware of and that’s ok because it worked.
It was my right hand, my main hand if you will, the first limb of my body to feel the air outside. It felt terribly cold, colder that the water in the lagoon. The air seemed to be against me too but the difference was I could breathe that. The water was different, invasive and dangerous. Before and after that, I could never understand the people that are fascinated with water and would like to spend their lives in it.
I guess that makes me a hypocrite. Because I kind of was one of those people before that. Since the earliest age, my parents took me to the ocean, to swimming pools, lake or wherever I could swim. I took classes and even competed for prizes when I was in school. Modesty aside, I won several of those competitions because I had a serious passion about the water, about how my body moved in it and it felt like home.
The hard time would be during my teenage years when, for reasons I shouldn’t address, I became increasingly larger in size. And it was nature doing its job; it was more like junk food and sugar doing their thing. It was then when I got depressed for the very first time. Self diagnosed, of course. I never went to any doctor or shrink to tell me how I felt. Even at that age I found the concept ridiculous.
Of course, I stopped my swimming. I was too big for the bathing suit and too sad to move my arms that fast. It was like that for years and I had to put away any remainder of who I had been before because it hurt too hard. Somehow, I had become a disappointment for myself. Is there anything more pathetic than that? I have no idea. The point is my attention shifted from one thing to the next. You can blame puberty for that. I just had to survive high school so, as when I swam, my body had to get its priorities straight.
It was only in my last years of college, more than ten years after I had dropped out of the swim team in school, that I came back to the water. It’s amazing to think about it, but in that time I never really swam. Yes, I went to the beach or to houses with pools. But I would only be in the water for a moment, if at all. Maybe surprising but true. I felt I didn’t belong there anymore so why overstay my welcome?
Aged twenty-three years old, I discovered a gym close to my house that had a swimming pool. The best part was you could reserve one of the swimming lanes for an hour and didn’t put anyone to tell you how to do anything. It was absolutely free of that. So I decided to go and, at first, I felt as drowned as in the lagoon. But I decided I would not ask for help and, slowly, it all came back to me.
After my first week, the people that worked there congratulated me for my style, my technique. Although one of them reminded me, as if I didn’t know, that I was too short and that could be a problem. I know what he meant: being short in a pool is a problem because you take longer to reach the other side, even if it is by a few centimeters. Those can be decisive in a competition and they were certainly decisive in the lagoon. If I had been taller, the sense of terror would have been less powerful.
When I had two arms outside of the water, the only thing I could do was taking a big breath. I felt alive, although barely. My legs hurt so much but they kept on moving until I reached the shore, which was obscured by the shadow caster over by the rocky structure above the lagoon. It was like a vault that enclosed the whole system. Why would I ever think it was a good idea to swim in a flooded cave?
But as the soon got higher in the sky, the place seemed to get larger and the water revealed itself as so transparent and perfect. The sky was evenly reflected on its surface. It was so well done, the surface of the water, that had calmed down fast after I had gotten out of it, seemed like a huge mirror where God could check himself out.
I lay down in my back, conscious I would have to swim back to the exit. Before I got comfortable, I checked for animals, bugs and others. After all, it was an arid place and little animals are known to live through the cracks of rocks and such. But when I was down, looking at the sky through the opening before me, I realized that was, again, my first time swimming in a very long time.
The pool in the gymnasium was great. After some time, I got a proper job wearing a tie and a suit, which I’ve always hated, so I had to move my swimming hours to a later time. I would go the moment work finished, around six or seven in the afternoon. I would stay there for an hour, not stopping for more that a few seconds. I got new fans, new people that told me they were really surprised by me. I can’t tell you how much I loved that attention, which I had never gotten for anything else.
However, I caught the eye of one particular person and from then on, I only cared about his comments and his smiles. I had learned not to let opportunities go by, so after a week of random looks, I decided to approach him after I was done swimming. It was weird because it was in the locker room, where people grabbed their stuff to have a shower or changed their clothes. He was wearing his bathing suit, like me, when I asked him if he would like to have a drink in a bar close to there.
That was our first date. We considered it our first date a year later, when we celebrated the anniversary of our relationship. We didn’t really celebrate, we just got together and did the things we both like: we went swimming to a beautiful lake, we had a picnic with many delicious things to eat and we kissed and made love in my car, which was incredibly comfortable for such a vehicle.
Our relationship lasted for almost three years. One month shy of our relationship turning three years old, he was assaulted in the street by some guy that wanted to steal his money. The guy had a gun and shot him with it, once. The bullet hit his spine. We all got to the hospital in time to say a few words. Then, he was gone. As if he had never existed. We had so many plans, a life of plans. This city is crazy.
I came to the desert because of what happened. I needed to escape from everyone and everything. I still think about him, date and night. I cry for him and I also have wet dreams with him. But it’s in the water I feel him the most. I guess that’s why I challenged myself to swim through the flooded cave. And that’s why I’m challenging myself to go back. For him but also for me. I need to feel alive again.