It always starts with a dive. A foot dipped in, a harmless splash, like foreplay to the plunge. There is no harm in a little fun, no commitment, no care for the future. That paradise sitting beyond the plunge is waiting, ready. I want to arrive, but fear the decent, fear the plunge, the dive.
My fingers glide along the surface of the pool, those ever-broadening ripples inviting. I feel the warmth climb up my arm, the promise of pleasant temperatures beneath. Like a lover, it beckons me. The wet toys with my heart, down on one knee – a ring: willing me to take the plunge, caressing my hand as I reach down to clasp the diamond sparkling on its surface.
The promise of a better life spills from my lover’s lips. The beach behind me stretches wide, as I stand on my rock, this diving board of choice. Paradise is a vision on the face of my lover, a mirage turned real on the water’s glassy surface. I touch the pool again, the waves disturbing that image, that place, that promise beneath. I can reach for it, but cannot touch, see it as from afar. My hand is drawn back, wet, the scene beneath me unchanged, untouched, unaware.
The sky reaches toward me, my arms twirling in the air with a final wave. Left arm, right arm — they work together now — stretching toward that place beneath the waves, the promise of my lover’s gift. I take the plunge. It always starts with a dive.
The paradise image shatters, my hands breaking it in two, in three, in thousands of tiny shards: the broken dust of a diamond speckling the surface. The image is a mirage, my lover imaginary. I reach for the ring, seek to press it onto my waiting finger. The golden circlet of promise is wrenched from my hands and thrown far into the deep. I watch it sink, watch it bubble, the plunk of ring touching water inaudible beneath the pool’s surface.
A brief flash of light, a twinkle in my lover’s eye, speaks to me from the distance. From clear to murky the water changes, my limbs working to push me forward. The soft glint of that ring, that promise, speaks to me again, and I focus my efforts toward that goal. Looking up, there is no more sky. Nothing but solid rock. The ocean narrows. The ceiling lowers. The tunnel sucks me in. My ring continues to sink, pulled into the surrounding drink, falling down the drain. I reach with my arms, kick with my feet. The ring is closer now. The rock is closer now.
I follow that lonely light into the deep, press toward my lover’s promise. It starts with a dive, starts off blue, then murky, then black. The darkness crawls ever closer, clawing at my limbs, shivering up my spine. It passes over my arms like a cloud of ink, and I lose them for a moment — them and the ring: a brief instant, like a blink. It is enough to spur me on, fill me with the dread of losing that thing, that ring, which I seek. My finger brushes the edge of that golden band.
My fingers fade into the black, granting me nothing, no purchase. One flash. Two blinks. Three. That lover’s promise is fading, fighting to hang on. It screams for release, blinking in and out like a dying light, a dying promise, a dying love. Those hands of the deep drag it beyond my reach.
Blink. The light goes out.
I reach into the darkness, spin in the depths of that dying water. My hand touches the wet stone beneath me, the wet stone above me, around me. My fingers climb up the tunnel’s wall, fingering at nothing, drifting through the darkness, reaching for the light. My lungs burn. Skin is cold and clammy. I flick the switch.
I wake up on the floor. Wake up shaking. Wake up cold, wet with terror’s sweat. The darkness of that stone tunnel is pierced through by that globe on the ceiling, that switch in my hand, that switch on the wall. A drowned tunnel in the deep shows its face in my mind. The scratchy carpet beneath me scrapes my skin as I shake: shake with fear, shake away the dream.
I find my pillow wrapped between the sheets, clutched between my disfigured legs — those distorted limbs kicking at the water, kicking at the nightmare, kicking it away. That bunch of feathers stuffed in a sack are meant to give my head comfort, a forgotten commodity between my nightmares. I squeeze the pillow, tuck my legs in, searching for that comfort it is supposed to offer me: comfort my head, comfort my mind.
I lay there for a time, shaking the wet from my skin, shaking the water from my limbs, shaking the dream away. Shaking the fear away. Finally, I roll onto my back: tired, defeated. My chest rises and then falls in quick succession, the light above me burning those slits in my face, slits meant for seeing. I grab the wall, not covered with stone, but simple paint. It supports me in my trek, supports my tired limbs, my own weight taking some shivers away. I flick lights on as I go, burning the inky black from my mind and surroundings.
Dry mouth. Parched lips. A glass. Water. It shoots from those nozzles in the wall as I punch the desired button. A cool stream fills my glass, one reminder of the dream at a time. One drop, one trickle, one cold blast as the chilled liquid reaches me through the thin glass. A tremor runs through my body, water sloshing about, spilling on the floor, spraying from the wall, waves cascading from my hands. The glass drops.
A shatter. A pop. A flash. The light-bulb bursts. Darkness. I slip on the wet beneath my feet, lose footing with my shivering. My hand comes off that water dispenser, feet come off the floor, half-naked form lying on the cold, stone tiles. The wet, the stone, the darkness, they are too familiar. I want to curse at the stupid bulb on the ceiling, damn the water, the fallen glass, but am too afraid. Another shiver walks through me, and I cry as a piece of glass cuts my quivering legs.
It always starts will a dive. A dive under the covers. A dive from bed to floor where I found my waking, shaking form. A dive onto the kitchen floor. All these clumsy plunges worked of their own accord, taunting me. They taunted the crack in my skull, taunted my broken-half-mended fingers, taunted that first dive I took long ago. The water was too shallow, the stone bottom too close, my head too damaged, the blackness too dense. Unconsciousness found me swallowed by the deep, swallowed by the darkness. Now, the darkness swallows my dreams, the water ever-present, the fear ever-real. Now, the darkness swallows my kitchen, spitting out bits of tired glass from above. One flash, then darkness.
I wait for my eyes to adjust some, or at least that’s what I tell myself. My nerves need more adjusting, more time, than my eyes. Finally, the shaking calms, the darkness barely traversable. The bathroom light shows that mess on the kitchen floor for what it is. I look back from the room, the switch, the light I just flicked on. Now I curse, though it’s more to hide the fear still haunting beneath my skin, hiding in that pool on the floor, than a damnation. If only I could curse my fear, damn that monster of my past, of my mind, of every drop and trickle, back to the hell from which it came: the hell where it belongs.
A broom, a rag, a mop, the mess is clean, but that shattered diamond from a ring, shattered glass on the floor, still tortures my mind. I know that sleep will not come again, and no longer want that drink of water. I choke down a mouth full of saliva, saliva mixed with tears. It tastes vile, doesn’t quench my thirst, only aggravates the chap of my lips, but I care not to try the nozzle again, care not to watch the terrifying liquid spill from that wall.
What to do with the night? How to shake my fright? Some find peace in baths with bubbles. I find nothing but water. Some walk off their fears, walk off their stress, crush anxieties beneath their feet. The blackened sky outside my window, out my door, down the street — darkness — not a friend to the frightened. There is darkness and water in my dreams, darkness and water in my kitchen, outside… just darkness.
I take the dive, take the plunge, wrap my form in a coat to cover the shaking half-naked child beneath. My door creeks its goodbye. A lock is clicked in place. I flick the switch. A flash. That light inside my house dies, this time of my own accord.
The streets are calm, streets are crisp. I focus on the feet beneath me, plodding a course of their own. Left, right, left, right, they carry me into the night, into the darkness, away from that place of fears, that place of fright. My trek settles into a rhythm; my heart settles, mind does not. It is not my intent, my fear, that carries me, but those shoes alone. Shoes are meant for walking. Nights are meant for sleeping. Water is meant for drinking, swimming, drowning, trapped, dying. It started with a dive those years ago, and replays in my mind every night, replays in every drop.
The sky breaks open, cracks a wicked grin, then it starts to tremble, shake, shiver. I know the feeling well: the flash, the shivering… the water. Outside there is darkness… and water. I try to turn, try to run, but my will is not what carries me. Those feet plod on, picking up speed, running now. I can run from my dreams, run from my past, run from the puddle on my floor, run from the water, but not the sky.
It sneers at me again, the thunderous laughter surrounding, shaking me. I shiver. A drop. I touches my nose, runs down to the tip, is sucked back into my waiting nostrils. The water falls again, one drop at a time, one fear at a time. One flash, one crash, one shudder at a time. One shiver. My eyes sting with the wet, sting with my tears, sting with the rain. The two forces work as one, blurring my eyes, but I cannot stop. I must run. I must fight. I left my house. I took the dive. There is no turning back.
That monster of the skies is chasing me, nipping at my heels from puddles, splashes from behind. I can see nothing but water. It laps into my mouth… one drop at a time… trickles into my ears… one drop at a time… sucked into my nostril… one drop at a time. A flash. A drop. A shiver. I stop.
A rock stretches beneath my feet, my diving board of choice. I look back and see the water rushing toward me. It crashed through the streets, topples tired buildings, breaks glass. Streetlights burst on contact, one flash at a time. Memory, imagination, reality, dream, how can I tell the difference? Awake, asleep, dead, alive, what is the difference? All is filled with darkness and with water, no escape after the plunge.
My hands reach to the sky, rain bleeding down my arms. What choice do I have left? Left arm, right arm — they work together now — stretching toward that place beneath the waves. I take the plunge. It always starts with a dive.
The world is silent beneath the water. A still calm overtakes me as I give in to the ghost.
It fills my nostrils, twists through my open ears, spills out my cracked and bleeding lips. The water works as it’s meant to: meant for drinking, swimming, drowning, trapped, dying. Darkness closes around me, that stone tunnel of my dreams. I see the diamond in the distance, that light dying beneath the waves, promise of a future, a destiny, someone to keep me safe. Fear cannot take me when in the arms of my lover. It cannot steal me from his grasp. With my final breath, final kick, I dive toward the ring. It spins about, playing in the drink, twirling in the circling drain of this sink.
I blink, reaching out for that dying light, knowing it is my only hope. Darkness crowds me all around, inky fingers clutching my arms… the arms grabbing that ring. Warmth emanates from that piece, that promise, the lover in my hand, on my finger. I shiver with the excitement as darkness overtakes me, overtakes us both. Water takes over where air is meant to be, bubbles releasing their hold on me. My body floats on the surface of the pool, water tearing off those clothes, bleeding down my naked skin, filling it with fear.
I cannot leave the deep, cannot run from my destiny. This i my new home: my paradise. I watch that useless body floating above me, the body of a woman filled with terror, filled with fear, tortured by every drop. My face is wet with tears for her, but I am not afraid like she. I swim in the deep, laugh with glee, safe in my lover’s arms. There is no escaping him. No going back to those streets, that house, that kitchen, that bed, those dreams, that life… but why would I want to? I took the plunge, took the dive, and there is no turning back.