LOMBOK The Alternate Universe by Sonia Zaccheo
Underwater I am weightless, free as a bird in an alternate universe. Twenty meters above, the sunlight streams through the ripples of twinkling water, but down under I am engulfed in the calm, dark, hush. Cold, salty air dries my mouth with each breath and with every exhale bubbles erupt above the tank as they swim up at ease. The wet suit is a warm glove hugging my body. I savor every moment of this last dive. All around schools of ﬁsh in every color, shape, and size, swim only inches away from my face. Monstrous, friendless creatures glide into the distance without a care, and bite-sized, neon ﬁsh dart around the coral like little kids in a playground. Hovering motionless, inches away from the reef, I inspect, in awe, the simplicity of these critters’ lives. My ﬂailing about, bobbing up, down, and around – everything that marked a brand new diver – are long gone. This universe now feels homey, like an old friend I’m meeting again after
several years. I am learning the language and it no longer seems so foreign. Jolted out of my thoughts by my dive buddy, who is slapping my arm and making ape sounds through her regulator, I turn to where she is pointing and see a black tip shark pass right by us. Spinning around, I watch as it lingers about the other ﬁsh like a boss strolling past workers cubicles. Before I know it, the precious time is spent, and we swim to ﬁve meters, towards the glimmering light, and wait for three minutes as our required safety stop. Down below, the sea continues on with its life, undisturbed by our visit and giving no care for our departure. The instructor signals “ok” and I give my goodbyes to this world, promising to drop by soon. On the surface, the sky and sea are one, and the cool, ocean breeze that we all know and love embraces us in a welcome home. Floating and bobbing in the waves, closing my
LOMBOK eyes, I think of returning to the island, Gili Air, a paradise beyond any fantasy or movie. Leaves from the thousand palm trees fan the island, and quaint bungalows line the beach. Similar to the underwater world, the island remains in complete silence, with the exception of a passing horse carriage every once in a while. The velvety soft, white sand beach and the gentle crash of waves serenade me to sleep, as I imagine myself, only 15 minutes from now, lying there myself. My thoughts are interrupted by the roar of the boat engine, as it speeds along to pick my dive group up. I smile, already hearing all the divers rambling on about their amazing dive, each talking louder than the other. The boat ride passes in a ďŹ‚ash, and we return to our reality. Lying on the cushion of sand, drifting off to sleep, I wiggle my toes in the hot powder and slowly sift it through my ďŹ ngers. I fall deeper and deeper into my dreams. I am home.