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It was midnight here in Fiji. I sat alone next to the dining room table, adjacent to the walk-in kitchen of our tan and pearl home on the pier. All the lights were out, save for a few dim candles that I decided to ignite for a more pleasant scent. Hand under my chin, and sipping a decent glass of wine, I lounged and ruminated about all that had occurred to bring me to this point. Specifically, I thought about how impossible it was that I have not seen Leon… for a month.
A whole month now. This just… can’t be happening.
Things were supposed to be different when Leon got promoted with the contractors, after pouring his heart and soul into his last job. He put that effort into everything about his life. It’s why I fell in love with him when we first met as twenty-somethings. I still love and support him, three years later, as his wife and partner through every obstacle in life that we have faced so far.
Not to brag, but being married to a man with a career like Leon’s does have its advantages. One of the perks we received upon his promotion was an opportunity to relocate to one of the company’s production locales: the island of Viti Levu in Fiji. Our home was a generously spacious beach house on a smaller island in the south called Vatulele, which lay on a wooden pier that stood above the shallow coast.
To be honest, as a young woman way too accustomed to a monotonous, near-deafening lifestyle in the Northwest, I couldn’t believe how vibrant and beautifully empty the whole place was. The sun-kissed gold white sand felt good on bare feet that had only known carpet, hard flooring, and the occasional patch of grass from a park I may visit. Behind such vast beaches were illustrious groves of verdant tropical plant life, like the tall coconut palms that slightly sag towards the earth, and its shorter cousins of ferns and bushes that blanketed the ground below.
More captivating than any of that was the water that lapped at the shore, and the boundless ocean that stretched endlessly to the horizon. The blue sea shone like glass and reflected my young face perfectly, save for the ripples cast by the waves along the coast. Colorful fish, sea lions, and turtles all made their homes in the coral and rocky terrain below the water, and it was always the perfect temperature to swim in, even at night. I so desperately wanted to just plunge into the water around me as we traveled the island by boat towards our new home, exploring the depths with Leon close at hand.
But I made a promise to wait for him after he got work done in his new position at Viti Levu. In the meantime, I would do some more mundane hobbies at home while also making friends with neighbors and the locals on the island. Things were enjoyable to start off despite being alone, and the fact that he promised me that it would take no more than a few days before he returned assured me that things would not be boring for long.
Then a few days turned into a week. Then two. Then three. And now here I am close to over a month with no sight of the one I love.
It’s not like I was isolated or deprived of social life. The locals on the island were all very lovely people and assured me that all my needs were looked after. But they didn’t fill the same need as having Leon around. The way he cared for me as a friend and a lover was far too special to be managed by anyone else. His physique and stable career were small treats compared to his natural charisma. Some would scoff at the idea of soul mates when talking about romance, but if they were right, then my husband was undoubtedly the exception that proved such an unflattering rule.
But that same dedication was also his curse since he worked day and night to afford every luxury that we now have. My biggest fear, irrational as it may be, is that he will be too caught up in what he is doing and lose sight of me. I don’t want to sound selfish, but the way we always looked out for each other made it that much harder to rule out the possibility. I had to have faith and know that he would come back, but…
I heard a small drop in my wine glass that just barely splashed the maroon tonic inside. Looking down, I barely registered how puffy my eyes were becoming, and the faint wet trail across my cheek that scaled down my chin, where the tear fell into the wine. I guess being alone like this made me more of a nervous wreck than I thought. I needed to relax, to unwind from this dark abyss of doubt that I kept digging myself into.
And I knew the wine couldn’t do it for me.
Wiping my eyes with my free hand, I left the glass on the table and walked with purpose to the far end of the kitchen. Opening a small shelf next to the stove, I pulled out a green, plastic box with the letters “THC” plastered on it and opened it to reveal a small assortment of colorful gummies. A batch that was quite… special if you get the picture. Just another benefit of this comfortable lifestyle that we now have.
The waxing crescent moon gazed at me like a sleeping giant, barely opening one of its great, shining şişli escort eyes to gaze half-awake at the planet below. It shone brighter than it ever would have on the mainland where I grew up, where streetlights and the glow of towers would’ve drowned out the heavens. Myriad stars glittered around the pale slice, accentuating its otherworldly beauty with their twinkling applause. A natural evening sky like this, with nothing to sully its trove of sparkling specks of light, seemed to me more beautiful than a painting or well-placed picture could ever hope to recreate.
I’m not usually this poetic about the world around me. I’m sure it’s the edibles that are working their magic in my system. All I needed was two of them to really set the mood right because only one would give me just a plain, unsatisfying buzz. Go above three and… well, let’s just say I know a few friends from college that can better recollect the mania that I went through of my volition. I’ve learned from that experience that too much is never a good thing to go for and that there is always an ideal dose for everybody.
I’m certain that I felt mine at this moment, after waiting for close to an hour for the effects to kick in. Every part of my body felt pleasingly lax, gentle heat radiating from my exposed skin. My breathing came in slow and naturally as I felt a subtle heartbeat in my ears, like the thrumming of a distant jungle drum. Although my eyes felt half-tired, every color that I picked up from the stars seemed more vibrant than ever and made the once-black night sky a deep shade of navy blue instead.
My head, the brain that once shrouded itself in a veil of doubt and sadness, felt like it was just… let loose, like a balloon released from its indentured servitude from the child carrying it as it rose to the clouds. It was free from every trouble that once sullied it, and every good idea that I could have while sober seemed doubly as lovely while under the influence of the power that now coursed through my veins like a steady stream.
Of those ideas, three came to mind that seemed the loveliest. The criteria that I felt needed doing lest the experience I felt be for nothing.
Firstly, there was the idea to row our humble dingy out into the reef just outside of our beach house. At one end of the sun-bleached blue boat, I tied the longest piece of rope I could find onto it, and tethered the other end to the pier, ensuring that I had a guaranteed way to get back and not be lost out in the distant sea. When that was done, I paddled out into the water, slowly, for what felt like a good minute before the gentle tug of the rope told me that I had reached my limit, however far that was. Looking back, I saw that it was respectably way out into the reef, as the house looked like it could fit into the palm of my slender hand.
Secondly, I went out on this tiny little boat… naked. Nude. In the buff. Seemed like a safe idea in the middle of the night on such a small island, right? I thought so, at least, and I thanked myself for taking that risk because the sensations that I now felt in and out of my body would be nowhere near half as good if I wore clothes or a bikini.
Most prominent was the gentle sea breeze that brushed against my lithe frame, peaked nipples, unbound hair, and especially the uncovered, shaven nether regions. It seemed to kiss or graze me, tenderly touching my body like a pious priest would worship a statue or likeness of their goddess with the utmost care and reverence. The same wind noiselessly rocked the boat on waves that seemed almost desiring to be as calm as they can possibly be, tipping the boat just right to feel like a baby’s cradle.
Everything at this moment was perfect. The star-studded sky. The touch of nature upon my bare, unafraid body. The wonderful effects from the treat made my blood flow like milk and honey. I didn’t want it to end. I could be content to just lie on this raft forever, lost in the phenomena that now enveloped me like a pleasant mist. What could be better than what I feel now?
Then my foot grazed against an obvious rubber object, and, at once, I remembered what that third wonderful idea was.
Before taking off into the water, I lazily grabbed a pair of pastel pink flippers and a blue diving mask that I knew would fit my face perfectly and tossed them into the boat for a later time. A time that has come now. A time that I wanted to share with Leon first in this glorious, perfect ocean. It seemed I wouldn’t have the chance quite yet sadly, given the recent developments or lack thereof.
So why wait? I thought plainly to myself back on the pier. You’ll get your time with him soon enough. For now, this is a moment that you cannot afford to let slide. Just let loose. Swim, Priss. Swim.
Gracefully, as if my body moved of its volition rather than my own command, I sat upright in the boat and carefully put on my equipment. The rubber soles of my flippers slid onto my feet easily and clung tightly once I got the foot hole wrapped snugly against my ankles. After that, taksim escort I lifted the mask, inspected it under the generous moonlight, and expertly placed it around my head, lifting the front of my hair as I pushed the lens against my face. The rubber skirt clung to my cheeks and forehead, and the airtight seal of the mask was set.
Before everything else was to come, I made sure to breathe. Slowly. Deliberately. I would take in long, calm inhalations and exhale just as much out. I made sure my diaphragm and abdominal muscles worked in tandem to get as much oxygen from the sweet island air as possible. To further accentuate the motion, I repeated a mantra that would keep my mind centered and bring me as close to inner peace as I could physically be.
In… out… in… out… in… out…
I repeated the motions and the thoughts for as long as I deemed fit, and then, with a final deep breath, I leaned backward on the edge of the dinghy and let gravity guide me into and below the evening waves.
You wouldn’t be able to guess how I longed for it, but I used to be pretty adverse to the idea of going anywhere near water, let alone swimming under the surface like I was now. I knew a friend who nearly drowned at the pool when I was little, and they were only saved because the lifeguard was thankfully close by at the time. Even though I wasn’t that kid, the fear I saw from them as they panicked and coughed up water made me not want to go anywhere near a body of water for quite some time.
I admitted this fear to Leon about a month after we started dating after he came out to me about his trypanophobia (fear of needles, for the uninitiated). He laughed in admitting that he would probably never get over getting a shot, but he told me that it wasn’t impossible to get over my fear of water.
“It sucks that your friend had to go through that,” he told me that night at our local pub at the time. “Still, you don’t have to let that moment affect your own experience. I can even help you get over it if you’d like!”
I gave him a half-smile while we sat at the bar, not saying yes but definitely considering what he had in mind. Glancing over, I saw a football game in its last few seconds of runtime. The home team was planning to do a Hail Mary to just beat out the visitors, though it looked like an impossible play to make. It seemed a decent excuse to make a bet out of.
“Tell you what,” I proposed to him. “That team turns their play into a win, then I’ll take up your offer. Deal?”
With a chuckle and clack of our glasses, Leon agreed with a confident “Deal!”
So that impossible play inevitably became quite possible, and I, against my better judgment, went with Leon to our local pool to somehow get over my fear of swimming. I was sour from the whole experience to start with, but then I found it was worth the trip to see Leon in his swim shorts while we visited.
In my eyes, my husband is the right kind of fit for me. My experiences at the gym have made me somewhat adverse to men who always tried too hard either to bulk up like rhinos on the weights or went way too toned during cardio. I suppose it’s flattering for some women, but I just found it kind of gross that they spent so much time on their bodies.
Leon was an exception because he just worked to be healthy without putting in so much effort on a machine or bizarre diet. He simply focused on being active, having controlled portions, and only pushing his body to reasonable limits of exercise. This led to a naturally handsome young man, tanned golden and with subtle muscle tones, that was easy for anyone to fall head-over-heels for.
Leon’s form was also evidence of his casual love for swimming, as he always enjoyed the activity since middle school and well into his late college years. His job kept him from being a committed athlete to the sport, but I like to think he could’ve made the Olympics if he stayed on a different track career-wise.
For my part, I was a natural compliment to his natural physique, and the one-piece swimsuit I wore on that first trip accentuated my femininity effortlessly. Still, even that was not enough to hide how unsure I was at the prospect of figuring out how to swim. Not afraid, per se, just… uncomfortable enough to be noticeable.
Leon’s immediate solution? He held my hand through almost every part of my introduction to the water. It was a special handhold that he gave me just for the occasion, not half-hearted like a jock dragging their cheerleader bunny out into some haunted house attraction. His palm was intentionally pressed against mine, and our fingers curled around one another like entwined palm trees weathering a hurricane. It was a gesture that spoke more than simple reassurance; it was a wordless passionate promise to each other.
Whatever happens, we’re in this together. Never doubt that.
Our hands were locked like this from the very start when we simply walked out into the shallow end to feel the water envelop our legs. They remained close when we lay on our backs beşiktaş escort in the water, began to stroke out into the deeper ends of the pool, and submerged ourselves under the pool to hold our breaths. His warm, strong hand lay securely in mine, and all the fears I had about getting in the pool melted like an ice cube in a sauna.
The feeling of his hand stayed with me as we continued our training, long after he stopped holding on to me. It stayed true as I began to swim laps, jump off the board, and go underwater as deep into the pool as I could while extending my breath-hold time. We got so engrossed in the hobby that we even took a few snorkeling and scuba courses after getting used to our natural swimming ability. I couldn’t have predicted how fun it would be using a tank, mask, and fins to support my steadily growing love for the aquatic lifestyle, and after our eventual marriage, it seemed evident that we had to take this newfound joy to distant shores.
Let me admit up front: every headache and dead end that we went through to get to this shore was so much more than worth it. My only experience in water of any kind was chlorinated, boxed off, and sometimes a bit too cold to be worth any more than a few minutes. It’s better than nothing when the hot summer starts to bear down on you, but anyone who’s never had the chance to swim in real ocean water before is missing out on the best experience of their lives, the influence of cannabis notwithstanding.
Everything below the water churned with life. It’s almost as if I can hear the water, sand, salt, and microscopic nutrients vibrating in aquatic harmony, and it gave me as much comfort as genuine laughter between friends and family. This warm water was heaven upon my skin, feeling like liquid silk that draped me in a full-body dress of marine ambiance. It gave me goosebumps to a degree, but moreover relieved my senses, like a soothing bath after a hard day on a laborious job.
As if the setting wasn’t wonderful enough, the pressure of the water was as close to perfect as a human like me could endure. The problem with diving out into deeper waters was that the volume of the water can become quite noticeable on our bodies. Go into depths at the mid and upper hundreds of feet, and it becomes overwhelming to any one person without protective equipment or proper training. The tropical waters surrounding my new home, mercifully, went no deeper than between twenty-five to thirty feet, which meant that the pressure exerted on me was lighter and more comforting than being out in the open sea.
Putting all these factors together, it did not feel like I was merely swimming on this unfamiliar beach. In my elevated state, it felt like I had returned home, swiftly embraced, and caressed in the arms of some ancient being. At this moment, the sea was a magnificent primordial mother, whose children were all born from the endless whole, and she invited me back into her loving breadth so that I could feel life as it always should have been.
I accepted her invitation with all haste, and I dove through her as a hawk would soar through the sky. I stroked and kicked to the rhythm of the sea, sinking or rising at a moment’s notice as my body pumped and extended muscles to traverse this new world. An unexpected yet invigorating swimmer’s high was built up and combined with my self-induced feeling. My naked frame tingled with latent energy, and my mind was painting a tapestry of sensation as I closely inspected my surroundings, where faint slivers of moonlight illuminated the rock and sand in a velvety glow.
I wasn’t so lost in this glorious moment of my life to not realize that I still needed to breathe to enjoy what I saw. Every minute or so I rose gently to the surface, and my head and shoulders would pop out to be reinvigorated by clean Fiji air. It felt like ambrosia as it refilled my lungs, and I sucked upon it reverently as I repeated my mantra before diving back in.
In… out… in… out… in…
Upon that final breath, I once more dove back in the water, and the process continued for what was, realistically, a little over half an hour. In my state, it felt like an entirely different lifetime. One where the pains and prejudices of the surface were cast aside, and my only goal was to be in the presence of the ocean matriarch forever. I would dolphin-kick and glide across the sea, explore and wriggle through openings in rocks and coral, and stroke the soft sand with my fingertips. I was at home on the modest and lovely coast, with only my mask, fins, and need for air reminding me of the life I was still ultimately tethered to.
Tethered, I ruminate. To think that I need to go back up when all of this is over.
I delved into the inevitable idea as I sat, as best as I could manage, upon a stone coated in aquatic plants. My hands gripped the sides of the rock to give me purchase, and the cool, squishy matter felt pleasantly cool against my legs underneath. Against the refractions of underwater moonlight, I could see small schools of even smaller fish swimming around me, night owls in a place where most of the other creatures may be away or at rest deeper in the sea. They undulated in their groups around me, inspecting with curiosity this new mermaid that has been welcomed into their home.
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