Diving

Oh fuck

Everyone else is already at the bottom of the ocean

While I’m still putting on my fins

I hate 

Making people wait

I jump in and the Costa Rican water is way colder than I expect

And it’s saltier than I expect

And I have to inflate my BC

Because I can barely keep my head above water

And my weight belt is loose and falling off my waist

And water is filling my mask

And the current is pushing me up against the boat

Pushing me further and further away from everyone else

And there seems to be a hiss coming from my tank

That can’t be right

Why am I doing this again?

 

Because my mom never learned how to swim

So when I’m six months old

She enrolls me in a swimming class

And she watches from behind glass 

As the instructor takes me in his hands

And throws me in the deep end

I begin to sink

She begins to panic

She screams

Standing on chairs

“He’s drowning out there!”

But just then she says

Physics kicks in

And I begin to paddle

And float to the top

Pretty soon I’m doing flips

That started out as belly flops

I think I’m-

No

I KNOW I’m the shit

Even though the other boys 

Can do double back flips

I never quit

I’ve been smaller but

I keep trying to improve

I’m gonna prove that a boy from the blue collars and red bricks

Of Chicago

Can be just as good as the pretty boys from the suburbs

 

And my mom watches as I leave the neighborhood pool

Where the temperature of the water

Is predetermined and perfect

And even at the deepest point 

I can still reach the bottom

She watches and she encourages me

Cuz she knows that the ocean can be a beast

The waves can’t be controlled

There's so much beneath the surface that can't be seen

Most kids don’t even get in 

Most only dream from the shoreline

Drinking juice boxes with friends

But she says

My son has always loved to swim 

And so I venture out

And I keep swimming further and further out

And every time I turn 

I see her

“Mom 

Look!”

“Good! Just be careful, mijo”

 

That word

Mi’jo…

Which I now know is Spanish for “My Son”

However as a child I looked it up and found out Mijo in English means

“Millet” - a fast-growing cereal plant that is widely grown in warm countries and regions with poor soils

I assumed that “millet” must be a very valuable commodity in Mexico

Because when my mom calls me “mijo”

Confidence replaces doubt

And I’m free to swim to the furthest lengths of the ocean

 

And I keep swimming further and further away

And the water gets deep

But I can still see her on the shore

So I keep swimming

And swimming 

And swimming

And at some point I am no longer 

Swimming in the sky blue daylight

I’m swimming in the pitch black past midnight

And now I look back and

I don’t see my mom anymore

I can’t even see the shore

Do I try to go back or do I keep moving forward?

How did I get this far out?

 

And I can feel my heart starting to beat faster

And I can taste the salt

And I can’t see anything but I know they’re there

I know my darkest fears are right beneath my feet

I can see the fins starting to circle me

 

They whisper

Why are you even here?

Who were you to think 

You could swim out further than the rest?

You’re way out of your league

These waters are where we feed

 

And I can’t see anything in front of me

When did everything get so dark?

I’m so scared

I’m sorry mom

I’ve let you down

Maybe it’s better to

Just let me drown

Just let me sink

Without you here

It’s just not worth it

 

The dive captain

Comes back up

“I don’t think I can do this”

“It’s okay,” he says

“Take a deep breath”

“My belt is coming off”

He fixes it

“Yeah

Just relax

We can go down when you’re ready

Just look towards the bottom

You’ll be alright” 

For a second I think

Maybe I should just get back on the boat

But that’s not me

I didn’t come all this way to talk about what I almost did

I don’t watch from a distance

Snorkel from the surface

I tighten my mask

I deflate my BC

And I start to descend

But that’s not enough

The hardest part is always the first few feet

Cuz gravity is pulling you back up

But just like when I was a kid

When the other boys 

Could do double back flips

I don’t give a shit about them

I never quit

Instead I flip my body over and I commit

And kick

And kick 

And kick as hard as I can

 

And now

The water starts to clear 

And I can see the rest of our group waiting down there

And I give the okay sign

Not the “thumbs up” sign cuz that would mean that I need to go back up

And we start the dive

And

Mom

I’m sorry that you never learned how to swim

That you never got to see how beautiful it is down here

But you made sure that someone taught me

Because of you

I’m not only not afraid of the sea

I can now breathe 45 feet beneath the surface

And so I dive deeper

And the further down I go the darker it gets

But the more beautiful colors are also revealed

And so I dive deeper

And it gets colder too

you’d be stupid to not wear every piece of the wet suit

you’ve gotta protect yourself

and I dive deeper and

sometimes the pressure is so much

I’ve gotta pause 

stay calm

pop my ears

okay I’m good

and I glide along the bottom

And that hiss that I hear?

Yeah, I start to breathe in water

But I stay calm

I wave to my captain

And he switches me to my secondary

And I’m breathing okay again

Cuz all of this weight that I carry

that feels so heavy on land

Serves me the deeper I go

And the deeper I go 

The lighter it gets

And those sharks I used to fear

They don't even give a shit that I’m here 

They’re like

Oh great

Here comes another tour group

Everybody move

They swim away

We politely swim through and I say,

“Excuse me excuse me

Don’t mean to bother you”

This is where I’m meant to be

In the peaceful calm of the darkest parts of the sea

 

And we get back up to the boat afterwards

And the dive captain asks

“Was one of you singing down there?”

And I say, 

“Yeah, that was me

It’s just something my mom taught me.”