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Pahoa, Thai food dinner while doing laundry. Our clothes in the dryer across the street under somebody else's hotel room. I check the clothes occasionally, the Laundromat walls talk with magic marker graffiti, drawings of leaves of Marijuana and strange nihilistic witticisms like "Today is the first day of the end of your life," "Grime is King," or "Jesus died for your flings". The Hawaiian girls still lounge around the railings along the wooden covered sidewalks. I time my return to the restaurant so as to walk among them and catch a glimpse of their character. They swear, but some seem innocently thrilled by hangin', and one or two others seem resentful, mean spirited. Perhaps they, although they seem too young, have already experienced the bombastic immediate pleasure of physically becoming a consenting adult in tropical paradise without realizing the pool below the waterfall has it's own dangers, and that downstream it spills into a swamp if th e energies aren't channeled. It's dark, I appreciate the beauty of a young woman, and lament when I see the hardness behind her eyes that already speaks volumes; of distrust, acknowledgment of the primal or hidden agenda of sexual attraction, of a capacity to hate or fight from the experience of victimization, of an alienation and even hatred of people who carry the masculine sex through no fault of their own.
Her attitude, the glassy opaque marble of an eyeball, negating my humanity, my existence, does it come from self-loathing, or the oppression of a small town culture fighting with the most distant and seductive view of an individual's hopes and dreams as depicted in the shrunken two-dimensional window of television? A man-hating attitude culled from the inequities heaped upon the bleeding gender in spite of Hawaii's culture, so proud of it's matriarchal origins? Or does it stem from the woman's plight in general, suffering the monthly duties of the womb and nine months of carrying child and only the last event is called labor, the fallacy of the weaker sex's frailties of reason, strength, and emotion which contrast with the duty of child rearing, an abundance of physical strength, and the maternal instinct of familial loyalty? Why should the offer of a female's sacred catholic virginity through love which, once touched by inevitable betrayal, become p fane and irretrievable? Why should women lose innocence just to replace it with hate?
BLACK SAND IN THE HOURGLASS
Almost everyone is naked on the black sand. Tourists walk by, still clothed, carrying their bags and a camera, which provokes the same sort of uneasiness and suspicion that nudity usually does. The sky is overcast but bright, the lava flow on either side of the beach tumbles into the ocean from on high, a static black wave to match the ocean's restless white frothing. Having arrived earlier hot and dirty from our battle with the tree-house and jungle, our first order to swim accomplished, Lora and I sit on towels and look out over the steel surface of the sea. Amy drifts on her back near shore, her extreme toe-headed whiteness stands out, a delicious big breasted piece of white fudge in a chocolate mousse.
Some swimmers treading water a good ways out, and some waders boogie-board the black shore, but most people stretch out on blankets absorbing the sunlight. A group of young local hippie kids next to us listen to a guitar player, his intense voice matched by his face and the face of whoever currently sucks on the joint they enjoy. One of them comes over to borrow Lora's lighter and invites us to join in on some marijuana, and Lora graciously accepts, "Keep the lighter for now, we'll come smoke with you a little later."
We're almost dry now, my fins stuck in the sand at the foot of the towel. Naked men walk by near shore, casually eyeing the naked men sitting on towels under the palms. I walk about unashamed, and examine the guava fruit on the ground and the strange tropical broadleaf evergreens, secure and basking in the knowledge that I am here with the two most beautiful naked babes on the beach. A large black or Hawaiian man talks to Lora. As Amy starts to walk out of the water, her statuesque proportions and gleaming wet whiteness prompt me to exclaim in a German accent "You SVIM all dee vay from Sveden, ya?." People start laughing, of course none so loud as Lora. She thinks the Hawaiian has said it, and laughs to him, saying "Pretty good!" laughs some more, thumbs up sign.
Back on the towels, or cloth skirts, we listen to Amy enthuse about how casual and friendly people here seem. One sheer piece of fabric we're sitting on shears, and the black sand pours up and through. Doesn't matter. We relax and drink in the dark day's perfect temperature.
Then twice as far out as the swimmers, a black cylinder shoots out of the waves, rotating quickly, to a height of about ten feet then slips back without a sound.
"Did you see that? Something big jumped out of the water there."
" Oh yeah, those are Dolphins. It was spinning, right? They're called Spinner Dolphins. They'll swim right up to people sometimes."
"Oh look! Look at all the fins! There must be ten or twenty of them!" The swimmers all face out to sea, watch the fins slice the black surface. Silvery splashes break into rainbows around the fins, as the Porpoises circle and dance in a cauldron of boiling water.
"What are we waiting here for? To the Dolphins!" And I put my low-tech lightweight fins on, straightening the cloth straps while knocking the greasy fragments of slag sand off.
"Think you'll be able to see them with those wimpy goggles?" I teased, walking backwards while adjusting my mask and snorkel.
Amy doesn't get up, still drying behind her ears. "You go on ahead. I'm gonna sit here for a while."
So Lora and I jump naked into the surf, I staying ahead just enough to avoid her, and her practical jokes. I don't want to have to pull her along if she catches on to my fin, or hangs on to anything else that dangles from me.
"Can you hear that? They're whistling! Hear it?"
Underwater our ears hear the Dolphins vocalize, a sound high-pitched and wailing, yet alert and excited. Naked blonde girls riding fire trucks under water might make such sounds. It encourages me to hurry, but Lora straggles behind.
I swim back under her, and see that she also swims underwater, her arms at her side, doing the same hula-hula fishy body motion I had seen her swim in the shallow pool of Ludgate park on the island of Kauai. She surfaces for air, and then continues underwater again. I follow, enjoying the play of light on her naked body, Below yawns only blackness, yet upon diving deeper, the bottom is actually close, perhaps twenty feet, composed of black sand and rocks that absorb the meager blue rays that usually reflect back upwards. The clear water enhances this illusion of depth, the dark surfaces make us feel vulnerable and insignificant, as if over mid-ocean depths.
We stroke out beyond the furthest swimmer, Lora trailing behind underwater with her strange habit of catching a breath and then swimming mermaid style, without the aid of a snorkel. My forays into the depths have lost the bottom. The squealing of the Dolphins has returned, and Lora yells excitedly to me, asking if I can hear them. I nod affirmative, the snorkel tube bobbing back and forth above my head. I dive over and over, try to catch a glimpse of them, prove to them that I belong here in the ocean, but my excitement limits my capacity to stay under a good length of time. Lora floats at the surface, spinning around looking for dolphin's fins cutting the surface.
I see them, another good distance farther out to sea. "Lora," I spit the snorkel out in mid-word, "They're out there! Come on, just a little farther. Can you hear them anymore?"
"No." She treads water as I turn to swim hard out towards them. After a bit I ease up and look back, Lora calls to me. So I turn and swim as fast as I can back to her, approach her from underwater and arrive completely out of breath.
As I float, head down, sucking air violently through the snorkel I can hear her next to me, she calls my name to get my attention, unaware that I can hear her. She puts her hand on me, to help hold herself up.
"Lance, I'm getting tired, and cold. I'm not that confident in the water out here. I'm a little scared." she whines. "You can stay out here, I want to go back and keep Amy company."
I can understand that. The darkness out here, in spite of the brightness of sky and the mad tropical chaos of trees along the shore, amplifies the brooding gloom of distant clay-bellied clouds, the smooth sand shore like wet cast iron, the black slag enclosing the lagoon, inky water, and even the porpoises spinning in sleek black spirals.
So I plead with her to stay out a little longer, to just relax and catch her breath, all the while holding my tongue from reminding her that they had refused to follow my suggestion to purchase Masks and Snorkels instead of the puny goggles which demand you hold your head out of the water. That extra head weight, holding your head out of the water, makes it much more difficult if not impossible to rest in the open waters. Actually she could have rested on her back, with a skillful handling of the occasional wave-break over her face. So now I withhold my 'told you so' and wonder if she will be as difficult to train as my ex-wife, who began our relationship with a tremendous fear of water to become a snorkeler and Scuba diver but prone to panic. Lora seemed fearless, but was stubborn and bossy.
She took off swimming and I followed her. Then it struck me. She was tired and maybe cold, though that was doubtful, yet she swims with that same graceful body wave, like a dolphin. She swims that way. She never claimed to swim well. She does not know a variety of strokes to rest different muscle groups. She does know how to swim on her back, and she's in the prime of health, so she'll make it.
Once more I turn out to sea alone, occasionally bobbing up to locate Lora's progress through the waves, to make sure she was in no danger, and after not more than three minutes away from her, in front of me a dark shape darts by.
I dive down, and ahead, a large dolphin with a baby staying just above and a little behind it, slips motionless deeper and deeper. They head down at a forty-five degree angle, moving towards Lora. I surface, yell to her to watch below, but my voice is swallowed by the crashing surf, the wind, the listless boughs of the silver-leafed trees, the sizzle of waves on black sand and the towering twisted silence of the lava flows.
I watch the momma and baby Dolphin slip into a blur far and away from me, wish that Lora could share this with me, then turn out to sea. I feel blessed by this vision, and victimized by my gullibility. Why had she misrepresented herself to be a good swimmer? Why had I heard what I wanted to hear, and took her plans of living in the tree-house, meditating and 'cleansing', with daily forays to explore the beaches on the Big Island of Hawaii without a grain of salt? Once again I had proven to myself what a strange bird I am.
As curiosity pulls me to the breakers where the lava flows north of the beach outline the cove, I lie to myself about my own fear, alone in the water. Occasionally I furtive glance around for the long sleek shark silhouette on the edge of this bowl of visibility. And the heart-stopping excitement when a dark shape looms out of the blur of watery distance, and then is recognized as a mass of submerged, floating seaweed or a rock outcropping. The real danger, drowning, offers a much less glamorous and certain death. If something goes wrong, a little water down the bronchial tube for instance, the coughing would empty my lungs and destroy my buoyancy, causing much more effort needed to keep myself above water, just to cough some more, repeating the cycle of sinking and fighting for the surface air. I would rather swim with a buddy. The thought of slowly exhausting myself, uselessly trying to kick back to the surface while my lungs fill with the water coughing and gagging on the mother of life as I die, doesn't really scare me. The pain, panic and discomfort would be intense but short-lived as I slip into unconsciousness.
Pain lives with me now. The pain of living alone, of not sharing this magic planet, would be over quickly.
The rocks below me loom up, a few soft corals and small fish decorating the slag surfaces folding and breaking into the bottom. Ahead the surf crashes and surges into the air, explosions of jetting water erupt and fall back exhausted as clouds of swirling bubbles, oxygenating the water. I explore the rocks and the life these shallows support, looking around above the surface occasionally to gauge the drift of the current and re-orient myself to avoid the dangers where the shallows violently destroy the waves.
For a moment I think I hear the whistling calls of the Dolphins. It reminds me, and I swim off, determined to reach as far I had most often sighted their fins, a good quarter mile swim out into open water.
My mind starts to play tricks on me as latent fear whispers to my heart. The waves get bigger. No bottom to be seen. The wind has picked up, and I am growing tired and cold. A hallucination- none of this is true, and when I dive down the bottom soon greets me, faint with black details and almost featureless. A dark featureless bottom looks the same as no bottom. But soon the bottom is deeper than I can see even on my deepest dive, and I surface with little dancing stars swirling in my vision, a precursor to passing out and becoming unconscious.
About half-way to my destination, the playground of the Dolphins, I start to slow down, ambivalent about turning back. Resting face down in the water, I scan the depths and the upside-down horizon. The soothing meditative trance of floating refreshes me, I breath deep and enter a relaxed state I associate with alpha brain waves. I don't know why, but I submerge and dive down, easily and unhurried.
Shapes swirl below me. I can't believe my eyes, all is silent and yet I see movement, and then I can see ten porpoises as they swim in a lazy arc not thirty feet away! I can see their shadows on the bottom. My heart leaps, I stop briefly and continue to swim down, and then what seems like their shadows below is actually more porpoises, swimming along the same arc. Below them more shadows turn into dolphins as I swim down, incredulously excited my the sight of this funnel of Dolphins that tapers down into the depths. They stare at me unblinking, and I realize that I am the center of that arc.
Once in a while one will turn even more upon it's side to get a better view of me, and it's lighter underbelly flashes, attracting my attention. The silence is roaring in my ears, I can't believe what I'm seeing, the shadows of Dolphins turn into more Dolphins, until I believe there is no bottom to catch their shadows, but just hundreds of Dolphins. Way out alone in the ocean with hundreds of Spinner Dolphins, and I am their center of attention. I have to surface for air as they pull away and disappear into the depths. I try to make porpoise-like sounds as I exhale towards the surface, hoping they'll return. I don't know how deep I swam, but it was one of my deepest free-dives.
They didn't return, and then I see them towards shore, fins sticking up between the swimmers. One jumped while swimming, without the perpendicular spinning behavior. I was off in a flash, swimming madly over to them. They were too far away, for by the time I arrived, they were gone.
Later in a book I found that Dolphins swim in an arching formation like that when they hunt. Luckily, I am no tuna.
© 2004, Mark Plimsoll, LLC
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Developing Nations license.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Developing Nations license.
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