Saturday 18 June 2022

'Like Water' by Elizabeth Kate Switaj

I want to walk out of chlorine haze and into petrichor; I want to walk out of the downpour and smell chlorine. I want the rhythmic splash of clinical, competitive strokes to carry me meters down past white-tipped sharks, past black-tipped sharks and watch the bull sharks feed. But diving isn’t a race. I drink up too much air. There are different words for lobsters with claws and without, and the salt carries different smells from different seas and different ports. The salt burns all machines—just faster here. I want to show you jellyfish or at least my stings. I’ve made of you a dream to heal or touch what stings and make me stronger coffee than the Moka pot on my stove. When I surface, there’s already thunder. I didn’t know how much lived underwater, how much mystery would remain when I learned to see below. I’m wearing gloves in case of coral. I used to press my fingers together to streamline my strokes. You didn’t know me in my bleach-stained mermaid phase and now don’t know me in my salty one. You only touched my wet hair once, from the shower. I don’t remember how it felt. We aren’t even speaking now. Tomorrow I’ll breathe more efficiently. Tomorrow I’ll see more sharks, more rays, more reefs on a single tank. I can control my breath but not you and not my memories. I can signal how many bars remain but can’t name my feelings for you. Sound is louder underwater but distorted.

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