We Were Noted for Any Number of Extraordinary Traits
There are some down here who are soft-bodied and free swimming. Their forms have been altered to suit the underwater environment. Others trail long, colorful tentacles that burn everything they touch. They’ve become fastened to inanimate objects to which they have no attraction. One of them says, Life in the ocean is simple and teeming with life. Someone else sells a different type of narrative. You hear them whisper, That feels so damn good. Still others rely on various types of camouflage to keep themselves safe. Statistical tables. Murky transcripts. Unrecognizable houses. The person you have been paired up with belongs to this latter species.
She says, "It constantly feels like we’re falling.” She’s always wanted to live under the sea, but she’s never wanted to live alone. Hers is a universe of purposeless ghosts, whose shapes generally slant away from one another. “Maybe,” she adds, “The world is smaller than we imagine.” She's giving you a step by step account of how to create a utopia. She’s organizing her memories in order to pretend her life in the city never happened.
You say, "A few of us have ingested toxins so powerful that our vision has been completely eradicated. We feel our way through the darkness by pulsing waves of sound until it ricochets off of something identifiable and friendly.” Your skin is nearly transparent and stretched over a structure you can only articulate in the abstract. Every action is counterintuitive and leads to performance anxiety. You wonder, How can we bear to pass through such thick clouds of unknown organisms? You use your tongue to scrape microscopic algae off of coral structures and other calcified surfaces.
Then again, life here can also be taxing. A cluster of ex-lovers have anchored themselves to a strategically placed framework near the channel of a particularly rich current. One of them turns her back on you and wedges a barricade between herself and a gigantic, egg-shaped rock to keep you from entering her personal space. She says, "I see you are still cultivating your long-suffering look." Her arms are tangled amongst a planet of camouflaged wilderness. Funny, you had always imagined things had ended more amicably than that.
Another ex-lover pretends not to recognize you. Their gender is difficult to ascertain, but they still offer you unsolicited reviews of pop culture. "Lately, I've been tricked into watching a ridiculous television show, a show that everyone loves, in which people in funny costumes do their best All My Children impersonation." It was exactly the kind of show you would have convinced them to watch back when you were dating. The underwater version of this person is intoxicating and you remember why you found yourself so smitten all those years ago. They post photos from your distant past onto their social media thread. It’s a face you barely recognize, though the locations ring a bell. You point towards some far away water surface above you, "There is a component of fantasy in the value of time.” You start to count backwards from ten, but they’ve disappeared before you get to the end. Still, there was a moment there when you thought you might have been on the same page.
Another ex-lover isn't an ex-lover at all, but some ferocious creature—part human, part alien—who seems obsessed with your total destruction. You appeal to their generosity, but shadows descend across their face, if you could call it that. They hurl yellow orbs of light in your direction, but you simply swim off. The water courses gently through your lungs. It's been years since you could take such pleasurable, deep breaths. For once you feel totally content.
After awhile, these various counterparts disappear, their shelf-life was always going to be temporary. Oh, to view the precincts of the distant past through the same telescope! The darkness is all-encompassing here, but something shines in the distance, apocryphal signals which avoid classification. The person you are paired with concurs, even though now that you look around you can’t find them—apparently, you are no longer paired. You will recall them fondly and associate them with the complicated mechanism of touch.
Language, it turns out, doesn’t always impact physiological processes. Tendrils and shafts of light wrap around the water and, in turn, the water enters every fiber of your body. Your shape is found in the wash of the surf—spirals, galaxies and whorls. You wouldn’t call it floating exactly, but you can’t help but begin to wonder if you were ever here.