Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The Bali Clap

It's one of those stories that becomes a legend.  The details may get foggy and the events exaggerated through repetition even while the involved parties are still alive.  It's a phenomenon I've seen before, but I must admit it's sort-of surreal when it's your legend.

For me the location was everything- I never dreamed of being able to travel to Bali, especially not with my sons in tow and no fuckwit husband to slow me down.  It was a dream, completely incomprehensible.  At least once a minute I had to close my eyes and take a breath just to make sure that when I opened them again it would still be real.

That cove was particularly idyllic and very much the stuff of legends.  It wasn't just the view- though I've never seen anything quite as beautiful and doubt very much that I will ever again- it was everything.  The wind was clear and smooth on the surface of my skin and it carried on it the faint scent of oleander.  That mixed with the dense scent of the coastal water made the air itself intoxicating.

The water was impossibly blue- darker in some spots, like the cove we were in where the water deepened due to the high cliffs.  But mostly it was crystalline and perfect.  And it felt like silk as I swam through it.

There was a rock in the middle of the cove- a high jetty of stone sticking up from the water.  At the top was an edge that hung out over the surface of the ocean and the more daring swimmers would leap from it into the deep pool below.  The old me would have thought it unsafe and strictly forbade such foolishness.  But this was the new me- wild, free from the confines of a miserable marriage, eager to fully taste from the fruit of life.  So I climbed up.

Andrew was yelling for me to come down- only 17 at the time he still feared this new version of me and half expected me to get into something too deep.  But Bran was cheering me on, chanting for me to "Do it!  Do it!  Do it!"

I peered once at the flat surface below with it's impossibly blue surface and cool, clear waters.  And then, without hesitation, I jumped.

For a moment- a time too impossibly short to determine- I was free.  Flying through the air as if my body were designed for the action.  Smooth lines and perfectly contoured arcs as I assumed my best diving position.  I had been a high diver in college and it had been an obsession at the time.

But a marketing career and marriage and two children and the endless tasks and chores of everyday life had taken that away from me- until that moment.  As I slid through the air like a knife I was freer than I'd been in years.  I was perfect.

Until I sneezed.  That damned oleander.  How in that exact second with wind whipping past me something so irritating could have lodged itself in my nostril so exactly as to wrack my body with  a compulsive bend I will never understand.  But bend I did- right in half. 

And before I could realize what had happened, before I noticed the surface of the water breaking around my panicked form- I hit.  My knees recoiling presented my belly as an almost perfectly flat surface to break against the liquid wall and I ended up doing the worst belly flop of my life.

To hear Andrew tell the story, the clap was so loud he actually went deaf for a few seconds afterward.  To observe Bran's tale it made the ears ring.  For me, I heard nothing.  Saw nothing.  Felt nothing.  It was just water and then- blackness.

When I came to Bran had me up on the ledge and was blowing hard into my mouth.  I must have gone into shock or something because I have no recollection of the time that had lapsed.  I should have been scarred but all I could think of was how proud I was of him.  My eyes stared out at him barring down on my chest and I thought that if this was the last thing I ever saw it wouldn't be the worst.  His firm jaw clenched in concentration, his hair dangling over his high brow- his eyes focused like lasers.  He was a vision of strength- an Adonis.  And I had brought him into the world.    Strange thoughts from a near-drowning.

But then my body responded to the thrusts and pain took over.  It was pure, reflexive convulsions for some time before I had any choice in movement.  And the string that settled in afterwards felt like dying.  Andrew swears it was nothing short of a miracle that I survived.  Bran can never tell the story without laughing.  It's a defense, I think.

Either way, it became a defining point for all of us.  A reminder of how quickly things can change, how untenable life can be, how tossed about me all are sometimes.  At first it was a story, as most legends are.  "Did mom tell you what happened when we were in Bali?"  There'd be excited glances, and eager ears.  Shocked expressions and finally, the relived laughter.

But over time it changed.  The exaggeration, the dramatic pauses, the added details that hadn't been there before (like a suspicious dorsal fin nearby) making the tension even higher for the listener.  It became something more than just a memory- it became the Bali Clap.


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