I have no name. I was born with one,but I macerated it away. My identity isn’t on those plastic cards,but it’s found when I plunged into the cold depths of mysterious waters. When I was born with a deformed leg,the world just abhorred me. I found acceptance in the blue waters,she embraced me with warmth,caressed my deformity and made me feel unique.
Today I stand here at the shore,looking into the horizon,even the majestic sun goes to sleep in those waters. A gusty wind blows my auburn tresses. I curl my toes and those silica crystals stick softly in between my toes. The trees sway & the clouds colour the sky grey. Pitter patter,the raindrops start falling. There are no rainbows today,there won’t be any rainbows for me ever.
Somehow,I never possessed the trait of mutability. I’m determined,there isn’t an ounce of doubt about what I am doing today. I think of the vicissitudes of emotions that raged my life,happy,sad,angry,calm. Just so many. After all of that,I’m here.
I feel the burden of my duffel bag suddenly. I gently let it slide down from my shoulders. It falls with a soft thump. I zip it open to reveal a silver wetsuit,photos,books,ziplock bag,Swiss knife & a nose plug. I pull them out of their resting place.
I stare at the photos first. Reminding myself how happy I was. I look at each one carefully and think how the world completely ossified me. These happy memories must go. I snip them up into a million pieces & carefully stuff them in a ziplock bag. It must have been 15 minutes or so,a stray tear found itself on my cheek.Well,i don’t know if it was a tear,because even if it came,it got diluted with the rain.
My books are scattered on the shore. My inspirations,my treasures & my companions. Today they must go too. I stack them in a pile and walk towards the ocean. I release them one by one into that ocean. They go floating away,getting drenched from the rain & soggy from the ocean water.
“Adieu mes amis!!”, I whisper under my breath.
The rain stops and the clouds have cleared. Alas! I have reached a rubicon dear me. There is no turning back.
Yes,I’m ready. I slip into my silver wetsuit and I hold my nose plug tightly. It has to be today. There is no other day. The sunlight strikes the ocean and I see a myriad of colours in the ocean. Is that a rainbow? No,it can’t be. Even if it is,I don’t care.
My countdown to freedom has begun. My grandfather’s words hit me like a thunderbolt,” When the Water summons you,You will go.” How germane are those words today. Yes grandfather the water summons me today.
I lost him to this ocean 2 years back. He went Freediving,never to surface again. I waited on this shore,looking frantically at my watch,at every passing second. “Grandfather,grandfather”,my echoes had cried when it was well past 10 minutes. I would never see him again.
I was an orphan all my life. My grandfather raised me on his “Senior Citizen’s Pension”. It was him who discovered my Inate ability to hold my breath for an astounding 8 minutes underwater. While the other kids would be gasping & turning pink at 20 seconds, I would be coursing the community pool like a mermaid. Coming up for a breath of air at 2 minutes.
We started attending competitions & I started winning all of them. Every school,every college wanted me. But the nasty comments would never stop from my peers,”Goose Step, Chicken Feet, Limper”, these were just a few names thrown at me because of my deformity.
Whenever I cried,grandfather used to take me to the ocean and we went freediving. Me and him, mermaid and merman. Endorphins gushing my system and me forgetting that I was a human. I went swimming with the school of fish & went piggybacking on a beautiful Manta ray. These were my family,after my grandfather. How happy we were.
It’s been 2 years since I went in those waters. The waters repulsed me because they snatched my Raison d’etrê. I had nothing to live for. Today I surrender.
I hear the waves hit madly at the seashore and I’m not scared. My neon duffel bag lies on the shore. I walk away from it,with a ziplock bag in one hand and a nose plug in the other. I leave behind finprints in the sand,I turn back and see how beautiful they look. I feel happy. I am a mermaid. A bi finned one.
The sunshine’s bright now & everything glistens. It’s like a welcome party for me. ” I’m coming Grandfather”. I throw the ziplock bag as far as I can. My memories must drown today.
The cold waves hit me and engorge me in their grasp. I’m swallowed by a big blue turbine of water. I’m rolling and rolling. I find myself free somehow. I come out of the water,to pack in some air. I’ve learnt every technique. Nothing can pull me down.
I swim and start delving deep into the waters. I see everything blue and green and blurred. I swim like I was born for this. My 8 minutes have started. I go deeper,I see little stars.. Oh! Those are fish again. My ears are starting to hurt. Nothing must stop me. 6 minutes to go. I go a few more feet deeper,now my ears feel like they could burst,my lungs are starting to cramp. It’s painful,but it’s worth it. 4 minutes to go.
I swim deeper and deeper and deeper. Physically I feel I can do no more,but mentally I know I can. This is my home. This is me. I hear the whales. Whales? Are they here? Now I hear laughs. Grandfather and mine. I hear the carnival sounds,the merry-go-rounds. I hear celebratory cries. How many things I hear,in this soundless space.
“Lizzy” grandfather shouts. “Oh god! That’s my name.” A sense of Euphoria strikes me. I don’t know what am I doing. I can’t think clearly with this pain. I can feel nothing. This is how I wanted to feel. Empty.Blank.Devoid.Null.
What time is it? Should I start ascending back to the surface? I,do need air. I don’t think I want to die. I change my mind. I change my mind. I want just one breath of air. I wanna live. I wanna pick my duffel bag and go home. I wanna sleep on my bed. I swim upwards with all my might.
My lungs are burning,my ears are numb. I need some oxygen now.I swim up again,piercing the depths. Yes,everything’s going to be fine. I will make it out alive. I’m ascending,there’s nothing to worry. I’m just going to keep calm.
And then a fierce water current shakes me and pulls me with it.
Nitrogen narcosis hits me and I blackout at depths I don’t know of. I must clearly be 400 feet into water. I sway like an autumn leaf. Unknown. Lost. In my own motion. I’m a name you won’t find in the books of history.
I can see me.
Gosh! I’m beautiful in that body. I’m moving. Look at me. I’m moving.
The water clears up,I see green trees,red fruits and the air smells fresh. I’m out of my wetsuit,I’m wearing a beautiful green gown with pearls and crystals on it.
“Lizzy,I’m glad you came.” Says grandfather.
“Im glad I did grandfather”
“Well,let’s go meet mom and dad shall we, my mermaid? They’re all waiting for you” he smiles.
P.s. This is a work of fiction. This is a tribute to all those freedivers who lost their lives doing what they loved the best.