A single bubble escaped my right nostril, swimming in haste to the water’s surface, as if gasping.
I closed my eyes.
She was right, that synchronized swimmer I’d overheard in the locker room. “Sometimes we lay on the bottom of the pool. It’s actually relaxing.”
I could’ve drifted off to sleep. My heartbeat, remarkably slow, was pounding everywhere. In my scalp. My temples. My eyeballs. My stomach. I even felt a pulse at the backs of my knees and in my feet.
How long had it been? I really should have considered some way of keeping track. But who plans this?
The muffled fluidity of pool water harmonized with the rush of blood in my ears, mimicking waves on the beach. When panic flooded me in sharp, crackling sparks that seemed to burst from my head, hands and feet, I opened my eyes. Fleetingly, the words, “Holy shit, I’m at the bottom of the pool,” floated through my mind, but I brushed them aside and studied the ceiling, blurry and flickering through ten feet of water.
Just stay, I told myself. You don’t hurt here. You aren’t injured here. Here, you have no limp. You are whole in this water. One with it. No one tells you that you are moving too slow. Here, you swim like a fish. It’s therapy. It’s your current job.
My chest feels heavy. It caves a little and I feel a few vertebrae in my spine pop. See? Relaxing. I want to sigh in pleasure, but that takes air and I don’t have any.
My head feels thick and though I am oxygen-deprived, I sense a euphoria.
Then it breaks. The water shifts with a plunge that upsets its balance. The mass of bubbles overhead morph into arms and legs. I am grabbed by the wrist and tugged to the surface. I close my eyes to the brightness and try to shut out the soupy clamor of voices in my ears.
Once again inside myself, I search for euphoria.