Independence Day

I am salty and pleasantly tired, with water in my ears; I yell when I try to talk. We did another night dive last night- it’s always eerie. There is a moment before jumping in where some sensible part of myself says, “Underwater? At night?” We did see some lovely stingrays and a few slipper lobsters. I find their appearance hilarious. They look like a headless walking lobster tail.

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I just dove Pillar Wall. I had my usual trouble with walls, the depths are so blue and inviting. The coral was teeming with baby fish, wide-eyed and multitudinous as blades of grass in a meadow, shifting this way and that. The sharks were curious, arcing over to examine us with their hard gaze. We are diving my first wreck in an hour. The seas are 3-4 foot waves. I cannot remember what it is like to be still.

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The wreck was fascinating: a ship broken open, coral mantling old sinks and pipes and doors. Even more fascinating were the sharks, five of them circling us expectantly (another former shark feed site,) coming so close I could have reached out and touched them. Their skin looks like rich velvet, scarred here and there from who knows what. A gray grouper bigger than the sharks was heavily idling by, awkward and thick-lipped, hoping for food as well. A cloud of silvery fish became a circle around us as we rose up from the depths.

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We stopped at a small island where one can feed Exuma lizards. They came running towards us, small iguana-like reptiles, snatched grapes, and ran. I spent most of my time paddling in the aquamarine shallows; it was like swimming through a jewel. A cigarette boat full of teenagers speaking Spanish rolled up. They began yelling and standing in the water smoking cigarettes, which I found hilarious. One began kicking sand at the lizards, I channeled my aunt Janet, protector of all animals, and hollered at them in Spanish. I think they found me amusing.

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When we came up from our night dive, the captain was dressed as the Statue of Liberty in a bedsheet toga and cardboard crown, holding a volume of Hemingway. He shook our hands and gravely congratulated us on defeating the British. “Born to Run” was playing on the stereo.

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