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underwater official cover

I was nineteen the first time I died.

It happened entirely by accident; I had never kayaked in the sea before, too used to the smooth and still waters of the New Zealand lakes, and the waves overbalanced me. Upside down in the water, two thoughts circled first, the rope meant to hold me certainly did its job, as I could not get the knot undone, and second, I hoped I had on clean underwear. The paramedics have worse to deal with, but it would undoubtedly be embarrassing.

If anyone found me, anyway. The rope still caught in what I quickly understood not to be a wet knot had my lungs burning from my held breath. I made several proclamations in my youth that I wanted to become one with nature. Perhaps, I should have made it clear that I did not mean it quite so literally.

A water baby, swimming from a young age, playing with water, and attempting—pitifully—to draw it, people often joked that I was half fish. They couldn’t be more wrong. No gills on me, just flared nostrils and pursed lips and fumbling fingers against a knot that wouldn’t give.

Crazy thoughts flew through my mind:

How far does the water beneath me go?

Should I look?

Can I turn the boat over by sheer tenacity and hope for the best?

Did I miss that matinee performance?

Like graduation, did I forget to sign up for my own ceremony?

A movement pulled my gaze, desperate enough that I would reach out to a shark for help; perhaps, mercifully, one’s life didn’t flash before their eyes, but their desires did. Because the man swimming towards me now certainly personified many of them. Dark skin, dark eyes, and hair that swelled with the waves themselves, so long that it swept almost like a tail behind him. His effortless motion through the water, entirely graceful, opened my mouth to gasp. Oh, the flaw in that plan.

 

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