“Self contained underwater breathing apparatus
is what it stands for,” the tour guide at the front
of the bus, also our instructor, explained to us
on the way to the SCUBA diving resort,
as we pulled out of sight of the gleaming blue bay
and our sleek ponderous white cruise ship.
She was a blonde, muscular, suntanned, pretty
woman in a blue bikini and tank top. who
demonstrated the flippers, mouthpiece,
facemask, weight harness, and airtanks,
underwater handsigns, procedures, rules
and more procedures to us on the half-
hour ride to the SCUBA diving resort.
By the time we got there, our tingle of
nerves had turned into anticipation,
and our disorganized banter had become
an efficient compliance and and docility.
She was good. She was also the owner-manager
of the SCUBA diving resort and a hotel on
another island across the deep blue Carribbean.
We broke into groups and each were fitted
with equipment, which we carried out to
the sunny beach set deep in a palmy bay.
We land-drilled without thte gear, then with
the gear, how to breathe, signal distress,
how to switch to snorkel, why snorkel is on the left
All kinds of stuff I didn’t know.
Underwater, I discovered I — a strong swimmer
and ex-lifeguard — didn’t know how to sink
so they added more weights to my web belt.
Before long we were under water, and the breathing
was as natural as breathing on land, except
you had to keep the mouthpiece in place.
This was as close to freeform flying as is possible
without growing wings; it is as lovely and sweet
down there with the colourful fishes as strawberries
and cream and a glow in her eye. About ten feet above,
I could see a lovely lass in a very brief striped bikini
treading water with a grace that exists only in dreams.
and below was a peace that cut out world and weather
and distance and hurry: all was blue and pink and yellow
and muted by a silence in which bubbles were the highlight
and graceful motion was as normal here as gravity on land.
Everything was delightful: flashing tropical fish, coral, even
sand. When it was finally time to go back up, I went reluctantly
back to normal: shed my SCUBA gear, and headed for the bus.
[Photos and background in Platinum River ]