Hurtle and Gasp
Joanne Faries

I frantically wave my arms, but with the strong current I have no forward motion. I kick my feet harder, but the fins barely cause an extra ripple. Everyone concentrates on keeping up with Juan, the dive-master. All morning, we rode like a fast car on a superhighway and watched the scenery -striped fish, graceful sea anemones, and colorful corals -through our dive masks. Now I am part of the rear view mirror, only no one is looking.

My ears pound, my eyes hurt, and I gulp my air. Without looking at the gauge, I envision the tank level decreasing exponentially.

Breathe in and out. Slow down. I must assess the situation. I was partnered with young newlyweds who barely acknowledged my existence. Comfortable with my skills, I assumed I could stay with the general pack. After thirty years of scuba in Mexico, I knew the pattern of a normal dive day. However, today is not progressing as planned. I do not drift. I hurtle away from the group at a rapid rate, and I do not see a sign that anyone misses me.

Could someone describe me? Tall, skinny, middle-aged, balding man wearing a black wet suit. I am boring. No splash of color, no cool accent, no dive buddy, no senorita, no witty conversation at the bar last night. I loathe my life. What to do now? I need to ease to the surface. Don't rush. Don't get the bends. Measure depth, be patient, and time the plateaus. I have plenty of air.

I picture my blood bubbling and I have a metallic taste in my mouth. Dive training routine keeps me rising slowly. It is the stops that set my mind churning, as I physically try to hold steady in the water.

The ex just received her monthly check. I transferred the kid's money to the college account before I left. He won't miss me for a month. A winter trip - the yard doesn't need mowing; the pool doesn't need chemicals; I go to work early and come home late. Hell, my neighbors probably can't identify me. Parents gone. I don't talk to my brother. Damn, I wish he'd come on this trip with me. We could have had some laughs.

I see light and with a gasp I break the surface. Rocking in the warm azure water, I look for boats or signs of life nearby. I fumble for a flare.

"What the hell are you doing?" Steve, my instructor, shakes his head. Exasperated, he reminds me that I have failed my dive test three times. This cold, murky quarry is not Mexico.

I wonder, "Do I have any tequila in the freezer?"

First published: May, 2007
comments to the writer: Knob'