October 11, 2022

Graphic by Leilani Cabello

Part I: Swimming

I’m suspended in a sea of black

I feel nothing but cold waves cutting against my skin

Goosebumps litter my arms, but I’m enveloped in calm’s warmth

I know this feeling

The feeling that nothing matters

The feeling of drifting into the ocean’s beckoning arms — alone

That I deserve to be alone

I stay in this feeling for a while before reality capsizes me

How pathetic I am!

My calendar stares at me hauntingly

Forget floating — I have to swim

I have a shore to find

So I swim

Alone, of course

Because why would I invite anyone into these horrid waters?

My mind also contains a pending to-do list

Introspections and insecurities muddle the sea, but I drown them

They prevent me from reaching the shore, I reason

They’re unimportant

But they anchor me to the thought of sinking into the abyss

To stop swimming forever

The only way I can conquer the sea is by swimming

But the sea fights back

My shoulders cry for rest, but I keep swimming

I have to

I hate it, but I have to

I hate myself, so I have to

But even as I swim

Even as I try to think about nothing but swinging one arm in front of the other

One leg after the next

Twisting my neck for a sliver of breath

I feel one stroke away from submergence

But I keep swimming

It’s all I know how to do.

Part II: Drowning

The problem with swimming alone is that I don’t know what swimming truly looks like

I see myself as a dolphin — smooth, poised, elegant

I took pride in ignoring the muddle

If anything, it made me stronger

But I soon realized that I’ve been in the same place all these years

I wasn’t swimming at all!

I’m thrashing

And with every splash, I’m going deeper

A thalassophile is one that loves the sea

I’m a thalassophile

I have to be!

Who else would swim when the waves are crashing over them

When the bitter scratch of salt stings their lungs so raw

And it hurts so much to come up for air

That they forget how to?

So the swimmer refuses to breathe

Because it’s easier to suffocate in silence

Than admit that you’re drowning

Part III: Floating

I’m overtaken by aches

So much so that all I can do is float

Reluctantly, I turn on my back, and I’m enchanted

Sunlight frames clouds encapsulating the sky

A beacon slices through and illuminates me

Gulls nip and swoop with abandon

I was never swimming alone!

My shoulders no longer cry

Neck no longer contortioned

I let the salty breeze fill my lungs

For a second, I panic

Will I be the same when I flip over?

Can I trust myself to flip over?

The swells quell my worries

Maybe I won’t be the same

Maybe I’ll become the dolphin I aspire to be

Every stroke purposeful, no longer forceful

Or maybe I’ll never swim again

Wasting away in the tide

But why let the unknown dictate the now?

Now, I’ve never felt more ready to swim

A thalassophile is one that loves the sea

I’m not a thalassophile

I can’t be!

Swimming is just what I know

The sea will never cease

Its waves will continue crashing and I will continue to feel

The bitter scratch of salt in my throat

But now I know I can steal —

No, have — moments of reprieve

Turn on my back

Greet the gulls

Let the salty breeze inflate me

I have to confront the muddle to swim to shore

I can’t picture myself just floating

Swimming makes me feel strong

Passing over every wave reminds me that I can

I’m capable of finding a shore

But swimming through aches and muddle is futile

I know I can float now

I want to float now ■

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