Sixty black birds with white heads have been circling Juniper for days. Fishing the fish that swim beneath us at anchorage. They perch on the bow pulpit, then pounce; water flies, wings tangle, fish freak, guts get gulped, birds laugh.
Only my boat. Only this spot on the water. All day. I don’t know what it all means, but I paint a cat face onto a paper bag and practice my best hissing sounds, just in case the birds try to come inside the boat.
It’s hot inside the boat. Is it possible to take off more than my clothes? Like, can I strip my skin? Or shed? Yes, shed. I want to be a snake. I want to do that right now. Shed everything. Have smooth, cold, new skin, that has never met any instant, but this instant.
I call Vincent. I book a dive for the North pass of Fakarava. I tell him, “Your going to think this is hysterical, because I shot an entire feature film, mostly underwater with a scuba tank on, but lately I’ve been having panic attacks down there.” He doesn’t laugh, but says, “It’s ok, you can hold my hand underwater.” I wish that earth was filled me more humans like him!
Vincent and the scuba gang, pick me up on Juniper at 9 a.m. Everyone can hear the jolts of my heart as I step onto the dive boat. I never used to feel like this before diving. Feelings! Mine develop like a freaking Polaroid photo sometimes. Instant. Full color. Laying face down in the sand, naked, next to a palm tree.
Why do I feel this? Is it because I’m about to breathe in a breathless place? Is it because I know a captain that accidentally killed three divers in the BVI? Is it because I had to rescue two divers off the coast of Hawaii? Is it because I just sailed through the north pass and the currents are like gorillas? Is it because my mom told me that she knows somebody, who knows somebody, whose regulator stopped working and they were forced to buddy breathe, but they were so deep and one tank wasn’t enough and one of the buddies had to be left down in the blue? I don’t even know if that story is the story that she told me, but it’s the one that I remember.
Anyway, we’re at the pass and I put on my tank and flip backwards off the boat. Then I sit there on the surface for a minute. Like I always do, before I do.
Vincent forces me to deflate my air. My body doesn’t want to sink. It wants to float. It likes to float. Does that mean that I am a witch? Probably! But, don’t burn me! Just let me bob until I can no longer bob.
Vincent adds weights everywhere on me. Then I start sinking. Sinking fast. Sinking into an opaque place without sun. There are no fish. There is nothing but the bluest blue that is bluer than all the blueness.
After many decades and new lifetimes inside the void, I begin to see little fish. They are snowflakes. And beneath the snowflake fish there are sharks and shark teeth. And beneath the shark teeth there is a coral ledge. Vincent drops me onto the coral, wraps my hands around it, and pushes my floating body down, so that I can stay there and stare.
We are 50 feet deep. I look up. I still can’t see the sun but all around me is a blizzard of sea creatures. I’m inside a snow globe made of salt and all the salt loving things. I get cold sitting there. My race horse wants to run. I let out a lot of bubbles. I see a fish poop. I point to the fish then make miming gestures to Vincent that I might do the same thing that fish is doing.
He grabs my hand. I squeeze the life out of his. We swim further into the pass. The current catches us and we are moving the way that super heroes move through the air. Where is my cape?
We are a 20 feet higher now. Translucency surrounds. I see the wobble of the sun. I see a coral garden. Color splashing into a spectrum. We are soaked in a kaleidoscopic seawater explosion. Forget fantasia. I see schools of everything; trumpet fish, angel fish, blue neon fish, grouper that look like soldiers about to go to war with their camouflage skin, parrot fish, humphead wrasses so big that they could eat a whale, pregnant sharks, itty bitty pipefish, some type of fish eating a clam and the clam is poking out of his lips and he looks hysterical- I’ll call him clam lips.
I try to touch all the fish. I want to feel them. I want to capture them, with my camera. I try to take pictures, but my GoPro broke along our way. I took it too deep. Now, I have nothing to show you of these moments but my painted words.
Vincent waves his free hand across the ground and churns the broken coral. He does it in several places, till he finds a shark tooth. Then he stuffs the tooth really far up his wet suit shorts. I don’t know why I register this.
An hour is a flash. We shoot up a red flag. We ascend. We wait beneath the surface until we hear the motor of the dive boat.
I am a cloud. Jittering. I want to dive down again and again and again, only with Vincent. He tells me that he will dive the South pass of Fakarava in two days. He tells me that there are more sharks down there. He tells me we will see more camouflaged grouper- also known as, smooth flowery rock-cod- as the days progress. They all meet here to mate beneath the Strawberry moon of June.
Moonlight. Moonstruck. Moon. The frequency of the moon effects everything. It’s a mystic magician. Lunar rhythm is a pulse that pulls the strings of all breathing things. The fish can’t forget that fact. I wish I had been raised to tune myself to the moon. To synchronize my tides with the gravity of it’s light. And I don’t care what you say, the ocean resides in each of us and therefore I believe that human reproduction, fertility, menstruation, birth rates, and moods are all pulled by the tidal force of the moon.
We should mate like groupers beneath the Strawberry moon of June!
Ok enough about the moon. South is 30 NM away and coral rises all along the channel. I don’t want to sail there alone, but it’s my only option.
I spend the rest of my day working on my engine. Everything is good except the salt crystals collecting behind my transmission. My shaft packing gland is dripping way too much. I need to tighten it, but I need more hands and a midget for that. And my oil levels are low. I try to add more. I can’t get the fill cap off. I read that I can wrap it in a towel and hammer it loose. This doesn’t sound right. I call my friend Gary in San Diego. He says, “Girl you don’t want to hammer it, use a tool that lets you grip it, then try to twist it.” A wrench does the trick. I make him stay on the phone with me while I pour the oil in. I tell him how I used the rudder against the main to “heave to.” I ask him if it was a mistake. If I could damage my rudder that way. He says that I did good. That I did what I had to do. That I gotta be able to trust my rudder.
We talk about this one time that we sailed to Fiji. And how the chief of a village got us high on kava kava and tried to marry me off to a toothless man that already had five children. The chief said we would have to consummate our marriage in front of the entire village. The chief’s sister found this to be so funny that she was rolling around in the dirt laughing and gasping. I don’t know what got into everybody that day. Maybe it was the kava, maybe it was the moon.
Goodnight moon, goodnight.