We woke up early that morning—far too early in my opinion—and left before breakfast. Although it was the middle of April the sun hung low and wintry in the sky, barely warming us as we grimly straddled our sputtering scooters. It was on the way that I realised what was going to happen. Or perhaps that was when I decided that what I had been afraid would happen would indeed happen, since it would give me the perfect excuse if I later felt the need to change my mind. I have spent most of my life arguing cause and effect with myself, so it was only natural that I felt the need to justify myself. My stomach began to tie itself into little knots, but the butterflies didn’t seem to mind the churning—instead, they seemed to thrive on it. While the lack of any breakfast contributed to my suffering, the driving force behind it was the sheer fear of what I was going to be doing that morning that set my heart racing and made my insides mock my bravado.
We reached the beach after a short but uncomfortable ride, and assembled our equipment quickly and efficiently. We had done all the rest: watched the videos, trained in a swimming pool, and attempted to mentally prepare ourselves. All that was left now was, quite literally, the final plunge.
They say that Theseus had done the same thing, but we were on our way to a ruined jetty in the Arabian Sea, and not Crete. They say that Theseus had done the same thing, but I would be diving for Scuba Diver Certification, and not King Minos’ ring. I bear no relation to Poseidon, and I felt he had no cause to spare me this transgression into his domain. Instead, he seemed ready to strike me down. The rocking of the boat affected no one else, so perhaps he had indeed singled me out for destruction.
I felt sick. Sick to the point that I just wanted to curl up in the damp at the bottom of the boat and lie there until we could return to terra firma. I have always been more comfortable reading about things than actually doing them, and so the only parallels I could draw to what I felt in that blue, rocking boat were from the words neatly stacked on my bookshelf.
All my ruminations about parallels, however, soon had to come to an end. We were there, at the jetty, and there was suddenly no way out.
I needed to complete two dives to achieve PADI certification, but it might as well have been a hundred considering how I felt by then. The oh-so-gently maddening sway of the boat had turned what could have been compared to the swirling of water in a bucket into the internal equivalent of a tropical storm. I could barely think straight.
A dive, backwards, into the water followed a final briefing. Water, salt water everywhere—in my nose, mouth, ears. Drain the goggles, purge the regulator, a voice inside me seemed to be saying, but in any case by then I was running only on reflex, half-remembered instructions, and panic. My first breath underwater was as relieving as it was anticlimactic. The air was mixed with salty water, and left me retching emptily into my mask. Tearing, salt-filled eyes, shins grazed on the ocean floor twenty metres below the surface, a few simple exercises and above all the awe-inspiring pressure of three Atmospheres trying to crush us into nothingness; and then we were out, floating among the waves again. There, in the shadow of the boat, the emetic action of the brine did what it had to, and I was gloriously and drainingly sick.
Now came the time for hard choices. Would I pick Scuba Diver certification, or my own personal well-being? Indubitably the latter. I would not be disappointing anyone else, either. They all knew how I had been feeling; I had made it a point to tell them. Just a simple matter of getting my excuses ready before-hand. Being violently sick had not been part of my plan, but that too could work to my advantage, clear indication as it was of how miserable I must have been out there. Now getting out of the second dive would be easy.
Then, within minutes of having convinced myself that I could have no possible reason for putting myself through that ordeal again, I dove back in.
A true story, with some icing, let's say.
Rip 'er apart, Ush.