November 20, 2010

At Sea – Egypt 2002

It’s the end of our second dive of the day and as I climb aboard the small yacht, I’m bored. How many small streaks of silver or grayish rock or parrot fish do I have to stare at before I finally admit to myself that only about 1 in 100 dives is worth the time. Each submersion is a lottery; I’m so tired of smiling and pretending that even those mundane moments are such amazing life experiences that I’ll write home and remember for the rest of my life. Please. Dozens of dives and I can no longer remember one washed out coral reef from another.

(don't we look so happy?)
Yes, my mood is borderline sour and it doesn’t help that I’m there with TT. A lull has settled over us; a span of time when I can no longer be devastated by this epic fail of a relationship. Neutrality is my goal, and rarely do I achieve it, but at least on this bright sunny day floating in the Red Sea, she looks so damn good in her bikini. I vaguely recall those feelings of lust and joy … more like remembering a movie I saw rather than what used to be us. Lately, her beauty only makes me more distant. More angry.

Yet, like always, I’m still smiling and talking about that great school of whatever that swam just near enough to still be indistinguishable. A couple of other divers talk about an octopus they saw and the rest of the small crowd gasps and oohs while we stow our tanks and pry ourselves out of the wet suits. Another dive. Another missed opportunity.

I move away from them to the rear of the boat. The surrounding water and sun is interesting, in its massive endless way. I watch the unchanging scene for a few minutes, ignoring the continual chatter of the others. I should be happy, I think. Even with TT and all that shit, somehow I should be having the time of my life.

In the distance, just breaking the waves, I see them at the exact same time someone else on the upper deck sounds the alert. Dorsal fins cut the surface and go under. Then reappear in a gentle arc and go under again. Dolphins. They are moving towards us. For a moment I’m terrified that they’ll see the boat and move away. That doesn’t happen. The fins continue to break the water, disappear, and reappear. They are headed to exactly where I’m standing.

This location is called Dolphin House, but we assumed that was the bait (and switch) for us paying divers. Just like other spots: Deep Blue (mostly gray-green), Coral Heaven (boringly mundane), The Hole (filled with nothing). So, even though I’m seeing the dolphins with my own eyes, I still don’t quite believe. But there they are.

Within a couple of minutes, three dolphins – two adults and child – are within 10 meters of the boat. No time to worry about air tanks or wet suits, we clumsily force our flippers on, grab our goggles and snorkels, and jump in. Rather than hesitate or shy away, the mammals (yeah, I can’t call them fish) approach us with ease; the three of them and maybe ten of us meet. The water is crystal clear and warm at the surface. I can see them so clearly: mouths open showing long lines of sharp little teeth, blue splotches covering their skin, and a certain active glint in their eyes. Their ease of movement is astonishing. While we humans flap our flippered feet and skinny arms, they swish around seemingly without moving a muscle. Tantalizingly close … an adult passes just outside my outstretched arm. I can hear the clicking under the water. The other adult approaches from the opposite side, keeping an eye on me as she/he slowly cruises by.

Suddenly TT is by my side and the two adult dolphins decide to whirlpool around us. We are the hub of this undivided attention. We gaze at them, bubbling with laughter … literally, as air escapes our puckered lips around the snorkel mouthpieces. They study us, bobbing their air hole to the surface to take a quick breath. My hand reaches out and TT takes hold, lacing our fingers together. Then from directly below, cruising out of the darker blue, the younger dolphin corkscrews upwards right under our feet. At the last moment, he/she arcs away, just avoiding the touch of our outstretched legs.

(not actual picture ... stolen from web)
Of course, the moment feels like eternity. These dolphins live in the Red Sea, free, untamed. They choose to be at this spot – they are not fed nor lured with any devices. They simply happen to be curious about the white awkward creatures that come here to jump in the water. Of the hundreds of square miles these three could be, they are here with me. And TT.

My god, for that one moment, holding her hand, and watching such magnificent animals, I love her again. I deeply, completely love her like once upon a time. Yes, intellectually I know it’s the immediacy of the shared experience, but I don’t care. She looks over at me and I see the same in her eyes, too.

The dolphins curve away to visit other swimmers, return to us for a minute or so, and then weave around our group some more. I lose all track of time, but I guess we’re together for almost an hour. Maybe less. The dolphins eventually have their fill and move farther out. We humans reluctantly climb back on board, pruned fingers, but at peace.

No one speaks much. Each of us has to process what has just happened. TT sits by me, in the sun, and without a word leans into my body. It’s such a comfortable fit.

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