out on my own

I love to go swimming in large bodies of water. I can keep nothing from myself when I do.

It’s beautiful in the daytime. At night, it’s even more interesting.

I step into the water. It’s cold. I paddle out into the cloying dark. Steep waves pummel me as I try to move into the deeper areas. I’m swept against several low rocks, I knock my knee and bruise my back. I arrogantly attempt to anticipate the rhythm of the waves and am knocked down again. Involuntarily a whoop escapes my lips as I kick free of the last big stone and push into the expanse. The lake punishes me with a mouthful of water in the next swell.

It’s calmer now. Swollen hills of black liquid subside to the flow and motion of a lake unencumbered by the restraints of the shore. I am given leave to move around. I flip over a little and turn on my back, enjoying the last few feelings that aren’t stained with creeping fear. Wide strokes of my arms pushes me further out. I feel separated from everything. I turn again and push further out. My eyes grow familiar to the dark.

The sky doesn’t have a clear line of separation from the lake. The stars collapse into the water, or rise from it. There is no horizon. Glimmers of light catch on the folds of water and my eye is drawn everywhere at once, trying to contain the immensity of the near and far; focusing on what is close and then drawn fearfully to distant motions of the endless plain of water; the brain balks. I am at motion in an immense natural machine, and there is no ground beneath me.

I swim out further.

Land fades behind me. I give in to the lake – and it wraps around me. Physically I am not cold, but my brain shudders and recoils, finding simultaneous comfort in the immensity of the vast bowl of the cosmos and this landscape of movement in which I am floating, before snapping back to its tiny perceptual cage. I am in love, and out of love, happy and scared, alone and disconnected. Morose and confident. I realize that I am thinking about thinking about thinking about this, and it suddenly ceases like a stalled engine.

I dive in, stripping more senses from the foundations of my mind. Concepts of contrast and context leave me, sound is a buffeting roar and sight diminishes to voluminous grey swirls. Touch is irrelevant. I am contained completely by water.

Below the surface, I can find no bottom. I can’t find the bottom. No sand. I can’t identify the surface either. I will die here. I will lose my mind and then I will find the bottom, one way or another. I try to relax, to allow my body to rise to the surface, but self-defeating, involuntary spasms keep me randomly propelled and in violent motion. All ideas of toying with the void, with death, those little games, seem immature and are dismissed; I will find air. I must find it. I can’t breathe. The water is suddenly a constricting coil on my chest. I kick and thrash. I can’t breathe.

And then I can. Shimmers of stars in a blurry sky greet me and tell me I am alive. I pull in lungfuls of oxygen. Cold air chills fleeing droplets from my face.

I hang in the water. I feel nothing. I left my consciousness in the water along with my senses. I can hear my heartbeat. I look at the constellations and my perception folds around and back again and for a brief moment I can’t take it.

The waves carry me in, returning me. It wants me to come back, and I will come back, in a month, years, it doesn’t matter.

My friends are on the beach, I hear them with joy, laughing between themselves. The first human sensation that enters my mind is happiness. I’m glad for that.

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