Content warning: The following piece includes mentions of a near-death experience.
wave of emotion seeks to engulf my being.
As I seek to subdue this particular wave, my sister chooses to play a song covered by a singer we’d both admired in our teenage years. 루나 (Luna), the singer in question, conveniently sings about the sea, and my sister capitalizes on an opportunity to ridicule my present bout of irrationality.
What, pray tell, does my current state of absurdity take the form of?
I’d discovered, per astrological teachings, that my moon sign is in Pisces (a water sign). However strong my reverence for the scientific method has grown over the past few years, I admittedly found myself identifying heavily with traits of the Pisces moon individual and, understandably, received reprehension with regard to my disregard for logical thought. Specifically, my sister had given me a look, uttered an expletive and told me to shut up.
Needless to say, her reaction rendered me quite salty.
Whatever Luna’s voice is made of, it pierces old wounds as tears flood my eyes. “Because I desired to recover the depths of your ocean, I went down to the sea,” sings Luna. “I jumped into the streams carrying your essence and like a salt doll, melted into nothingness and dissolved without a trace.”
However strong my reverence for the scientific method has grown over the past few years, I admittedly found myself identifying heavily with traits of the Pisces moon individual.
My sister glances over at me. She starts to articulate a painful truth about my state of being but stops midsentence as teardrops line the sides of my eyes. Thankful for the ounce of warmth she manages to grace upon my being, she switches gears, another conversation ensues, and we both eventually sink into a deep slumber.
The next morning, I wake up feeling reasonably within the realm of well-being. Determined to show the vices of this world that I can transcend negative feeling, I endeavor to protest any unpleasant sentiments emerging deep within and decide that I shall carry on in a carpe-diem-like manner. My sister, on the other hand, smirks.
I question her role as my support system.
“I’m your sense of reason, dumbass.”
I proceed to stare at an old bucket list. Among the dusty pages and smeared ink, I decipher the traces of an individual I previously deemed no longer conducive to my existence as a human being.
The bucket list reads as follows: swimming, taking salsa dancing classes, skydiving, improving my Chinese, among other things I’d planned to accomplish. I observe that swimming is at the top of the list and, slightly bemused at the nature of this Freudian slip, I cross swimming out…
… because I already know how to swim.
I sit. And I think. I don’t know that I desire to make another bucket list. I close the journal and put it away.
And somehow, time passes me by. My essence has transitioned into its next iteration, and I find myself sitting at Berkeley Espresso, staring at the new building on Berkeley Way. I examine the space in which the building has been placed, trying to picture what it existed as before the construction had started, before sophomore year had begun.
One memory, in particular, rises to the surface of my mind.
I am greeted with the smell of sunscreen and rubber upon my arrival back to my apartment. One of my roommates pokes her head out and indicates that I should join them: They’re about to go swimming.
I stupidly tag along. No matter that I haven’t gone swimming in longer than a decade, but I decide I’m going to rely solely on the belief that steadfast muscle memory will see me through to success after 11 years of neglect.
As I seek to position my goggles in a manner conducive to enhancing my sight underwater, I stare across the mass of the pool, feeling an inexplicable sense of impending doom. As I submerge myself and allow the water to close in on me, echoes of traumatic pasts begin to inundate my brain. And though my muscle memory did not succeed in serving me as desired, it did not fail me.
Because it remembered something else. I see my 10-year-old self in the middle of the deep side of the pool. She attempts to grab the attention of an instructor nearby while attempting to wade furiously toward the sides of the pool. She attempts to tread the water properly, but she hasn’t had enough practice. She fights to keep her head above the water, but she has emptied her energy reserves, and when she takes a deep inhale, she sinks, and water fills her lungs instead. The pain is such that she shrieks, but her screams are muffled by another intake of water…
I claw my way back up to the surface. I stare briefly at the side of the pool. I tell my roommates I suddenly have to use the restroom, and I sit in the locker room, replaying the monster called forth from within, that which had not been addressed in the past 11 years.
No matter that I haven’t gone swimming in longer than a decade, but I decide I’m going to rely solely on the belief that steadfast muscle memory will see me through to success after 11 years of neglect.
And I continue to sit.
My roommates, having taken note of my prolonged absence, return to find me staring at the ground. Three minutes pass before I observe their company, and I relate only to them that I have bad cramps and do not desire to swim anymore. I tell them to continue, that my mobile device shall sufficiently dispel feelings of boredom. As they tread past the doors of the locker room, their absence sends a tremor of panic through my being, and I tremble for a good 10 minutes.
The me at Berkeley Espresso, on the other hand, shudders for a good 30 seconds. Realizing that I have mastered the art of suppression all too well, I let out a sigh of emotional exhaustion and carry on.
I stand up. I gather my belongings. I walk out of the coffee shop and proceed to fall headfirst into a deep pool of water. Berating myself for my lack of grace, I pick myself back up and step out of the pool in time to realize that I am not wet. My fall (from grace) has not been visually perceived by any persons in the vicinity, and as I turn around, I realize the pool of water has evaporated…
… in a matter of 20 seconds. A good number of profanity-laden terms course through my mind as I resume a trek back in time. I attempt to stare the pool of water back into existence, of course, unsuccessfully…
And I resume my trek back to my apartment.
Upon arrival, I open the door, and all the lights have been turned off. I turn on the lights in the living room, and some amount of warmth fills the room yet again. I lay my backpack against the coffee table, empty my pockets and sit down, letting out a sigh of exhaustion as I sink comfortably into the couch.
An image of my mother is called forth. I’d been talking to her after experiencing an incredibly debilitating day. Among my tears and incoherent trains of thought, she’d told me, “When the boat reaches its pier, it’ll straighten out with the current (船到橋頭自然直).”
And I continue to sit. I suppose therein lies the answer to all that troubles those who encounter the human experience.
I sigh once more.