For years, I’ve maintained I don’t really like to be in the ocean, but I love to be near the ocean. I have my reasons. Who here hasn’t seen Jaws? Who here hasn’t lived life?
But then there’s an afternoon in April, and I’m on a catamaran in the Caribbean Sea with some of my favorite people.
The boat moves through water that is a color of blue that I’m not sure exists in real life. There’s no name for the color that is this ocean.
We make a stop to snorkel, and my guy can’t wait to put on fins and dive in. But I keep my place on the cushy bench, gaze at the sky, examine my good fortune, sip some white wine. I’m itchy to be in the water, but then recall that I love to only be near the ocean, not in it.
After snorkeling, the catamaran delivers us to Isla Mujeres where we rent a golf cart and bomb around the island, stopping for beachside tacos and to wade into the dreamy Avalon Reef Lagoon. A couple hours later we return to the catamaran, high on our modest adventure and blithesome to be back on the water.
My fellow passengers and I are kicking back, faces to the sun, not talking much, savoring whatever cocktail our thoughtful crew has placed in our hands. We are bewitched by the warmth, the sea breeze, and the nameless-colored water. We watch as the crew dances around the boat, serving drinks, messing with ropes and other boat stuff. Sails rise overhead.
I look on as one of the crew scrambles across the boat’s nets and carefully unties a complicated knot. He throws the anchor overboard.
Everyone on the catamaran sheds their grown-up skins and backslides in time. We are kids again.
My guy is the first of our foursome off the boat. He hops over the side before anyone can stop him. The rest of us take a safer, more civilized route into the water – down the steps, off the back of the boat.
Soon we hear squeals and big splashes. Grown-up kids are taking turns jumping from the side of the catamaran into the water.
So my bestie and I swim back to the boat. “You jump, I jump,” she says with a grin.
Like school girls, we grab each other’s hands, step from the solid surface beneath our feet and into air.
We can’t help ourselves — shrieks and laughter rise up and out as we slip through sky. Our bodies break the surface of the holy water with gratifying impact. We touch the silky sand beneath us then ascend from the sea floor, whooping.
In the translucent water we laugh. I laugh-cry, tears and saltwater mixing on sun burnt cheeks. For a few moments on a spring afternoon, far from home (or maybe closer to home than I think), I catch the tail of my former child self. I also capture something else I’m not expecting.
I’m holding loosely and cautiously, but with rising conviction, to a new blessing on this bright, ethereal afternoon.
I am in the ocean, and I am swimming.