In school, it was made compulsory, where we had two classes a week. I was deeply conscious of my jiggles and wiggles, and I dreaded donning the suit. It didn’t necessarily have to be Monday for me to feel the blues.
But try as I might, the water kept coming back for me. I’m quite absent-minded, and had this uncanny knack for landing plop! In the middle of puddles even though I had so carefully avoided them in my head. The water bridged this dissonance between my imagination and the harsh reality. But sometimes, it came to my rescue. I was socially awkward for the longest time, and when I wanted to cancel a date, all I did was take one look at the sky above, and imagine that the clouds looked like stones being angrily rubbed against each other to start a fire. Only of course, it wouldn’t be fire, but torrential rain. That my predictions almost never came true is another matter. I had succeeded in wriggling out of my commitment.
I made up my mind to live only in sunny places when I grew up. I remember when I was little, I spread out the moth-eaten map that belonged to my grandfather in front of me, and traced my fingers along the places where the sun never set. Thailand. India. Libya. Perhaps Spain. In those moments, I imagined myself a traveller walking across hot sands and sipping cool drinks, and a warm flood washed over me.
But before I could grow up and chase the sun, I still had school to complete. In the 12th grade, my class teacher announced that she would be taking us on a surprise trip somewhere. I groaned. I was always trepid about surprises. “Just make sure you carry lots of sunscreen.” She had said, and my soul soared. We were going to a sunny place! For the first time in my entire life, I was excited about a school trip.
But when we reached, I felt betrayed. The sunscreen was to guard us against the sun…at the beach! I was so upset; it looked like the sun in my face had already set. I sat on the sand, under the shade of an umbrella and looked mutinously at all my classmates who were playing Frisbee, or swimming. No amount of coaxing would make me so much as dip my feet in the water. I sighed and took out my pen and paper, to vent out my angst in pretentious poetry.
Just when I thought the day couldn’t get any worse, the wind swooped down on me like a bird and pecked the papers out of my hand. I let out a small shriek and chased after it, unmindful of where my feet where headed. The ocean wrapped around me like a net, and arrested my fall. For a while I choked and gasped, arms flailing, but eventually I began to bob like an apple in a bucket. In fact, my calm was reinstated in a bit, and the water was surprisingly not so cold. My fear melted into the warm giant blue puddle.
My papers were lost, but the poetry remained. If the world was my oyster, then I was glad I was a creature of the sea.