I clutch a photograph in my hand, crisp and well preserved, only a few years old. I find myself here, embedded in the gloss for as long as the photo survives.
In it, I am alone, comforted only by a submergence of pale blue. I am caught swimming, my hands outstretched, cupped as to pull myself through the water. My pigment has taken to the color of the atmosphere, shied into a light grey.
I swim, but I do not see. The water is thick with turbidity: fibers of fish scales, the forgotten breath of deforested sea weed. A snorkel leads from my puckered lips and broaches the thin surface above me. The snorkel is my division, because I am not as decisive as I might hope. I cannot fully detach myself from one world for another.
I cannot fully be alone.
Who snapped me, who captured me in photography’s grip, so that I may always be caught in the drift, so that I may always sneer behind my fogged goggles, in search of something? Who could see me when I could not see them? Was it my mother or my sister? Or my father? Could it have been a family member? Can a family stand to see one of their ranks in the vacuum between worlds?
Could I have set a timer? Could I have trusted technology to see me when my own eyes, my own iris, my pupils, were so clouded with the mist of open saltwater?
Too close to the surface, prickles of hair on the top of my head pluck into the air, desperate to breathe, but me, I seem to be looking for the oxygen in water; I am in search of answers.
And I can fully be alone.
In water, open and without distance, I am suddenly shrunken, I am suddenly small. With the blindness of nothing, no objects, no recollection of another human, only I exist. Not even all of me, my legs loped off by the photo’s edge so that only my struggling arms can claw at the absence of company, only my weightless torso and diffusion of hair.
Not even gravity has me within its clutch, not even gravity, so universal, all powerful. Gravity, a fascist piece of physics, is irrelevant.
Yet, a world void of law, a world of impenetrable blue, is not enough.
A world of impenetrable blue is too much.
This photo is three years old, but suddenly, it was taken five minutes ago. Me, between home life and college, going toward my future. I do not trust myself with paramount decisions, so I keep the snorkel above water, I do not release the tether between myself and what I have known.
I am water because sometimes breathing is complicated. As we grow older, as we progress into worlds outside our living rooms, we desire snorkels so that we may breathe the air of relativity. I am water because sometimes the future is fogged, what is directly in front of us undulates between clarities. I am water, because sometimes I just flow, because photographs are not tyrants, and ultimately, we do move beyond the frame.