Sunday postcard from… Whitsunday Islands

Goon had flowed free last night. I remember having had a chat with the two other girls on the boats when one of the boys – I think it was one of the Germans, but I’m not sure anymore – hollered at me and told me to go stand at the front of the boat with Tim so they could take pictures of “The Titanic”. Classic.

I woke up to a quiet, damp morning, where the thick silence was only broken by disgruntled moans of the tired and hungover. I and a bunch of other people that had managed to crawl out of their bunks sat shivering on the deck when our diving instructor told we would set off in an hour or two, however, if we’d like we could go snorkeling once more before anchors up. The boys seemed sick to the idea. I remember looking at the uninvitingly grey waters loathing. But I made up my mind and said yes. The two girls smirked and agreed to come along.

We donned on the wetsuits that stuck to the skin like a sleazy embrace and descended from the boat. It surprised me how warm the water was. The temperature was easily more pleasant than up on the deck. The two girls were off already, so I put up my mask, a bit nervous it might let water through. The previous day I had found out I would never dive unless I was willing to face that imminent terror of a horrible death that it made me feel. Snorkeling, however, was fine. I went under.

And there, around me, were tens of translucent jelly fish floating around like ghosts on an underwater parade. I was careful not to touch them even with the wetsuit on, even though a few times I might have, I don’t know. They were everywhere. I swam slowly through their solemn crowd and everywhere I turned, there were more, just sitting there or slowly moving about in their shadowy morning kingdom.

At some point I came up to clean my mask and saw the girls sitting on the beach talking, so I went down again, overwhelmed by the knowledge that I was in the water completely alone now, just me and the swarm of see-through organisms. I slid around for a bit, this time observing the fish at the bottom. The day before I had been impressed by the multitude of fishes, but today there were more. Rapid flashes of swarms of tiny fish went under me. Fishes whose colours were shining brightly amidst the muddy blue paddled on. As I was staring, a huge fish, tall but skinny, sailed under me. I told the crew about it later. I told them it must have been my arm’s length and they said there were no fish that big in such hollow waters and maybe the water had distorted my vision. I didn’t mind. I hold on to that flawed memory because it’s how I remember that morning. I swear that moment the time stopped and the world around me stopped, too, for a heartbeat.

I forgot my camera on board that morning but later I never regretted leaving it. I remember the swim with the fish as I do. No picture could render that feeling better than my unreliable, dreamy memory.

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