Saturday, May 19, 2012

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Other Side

I saw flashes of light burst through the water out of the corner of my eye. When I looked down into the tank they were gone. When I looked away, there were more flashes. I thought I was having a stroke or something. Luckily, I figured it out before I called 911. The little bursts of light were flashes from visitor's camera's who were taking pictures of the sharks. They were on the lower level of the aquarium looking in, and I was standing above them.

There is twenty-three feet of water and 8 inches of acrylic between me and the aquarium visitors, but still at the end of the day when the lights are dimming and the visitors are thinning, it can be a creepy walk from the dive locker office to the hallway. I was tired and my mind was elsewhere, but the flashes of light brought me back to myself. The flashes were little fireworks of cameras from visitor's twenty-three feet below on the other side of the aquarium acrylic. They were dry and warm. My hair was still wet from the two dives I had just completed and no amount of hot water from the shower could penetrate the coldness that had settled in my core.

It is funny what being on the other side of things can do for you. I remember once when I had visited the aquarium wanting to be a part of things there. I wanted to dive with the sharks and the eels, but I never thought they would want someone like me. At the time, I didn't really know what “like me” meant. I think it was just a way of lumping others into my self-hatred. Thinking “like me” was less stinging I think because that would imply that there were people in the world similar to me, and if we all met somewhere for coffee, at least we would have each other to hang out with and commiserate our misery. Thinking they wouldn't want “me” is a far lonelier scale of low self-esteem. But now I am on the other side of the glass. I don't stand out front and just take pictures. I can take pictures from inside or outside of the tank.

The flash of the camera's reminded me of a night off shore when I was on a night dive. I remember looking up and seeing the flash of lightning from an on coming storm. The flashes played on the surface that was beginning to swell and surge. I remember the boat lurched up and down against its mooring as I ascended the anchor line. The water heaved me up and pulled me back as I tried to climb the swim ladder. I maneuvered one foot on each rung and locked my knees as the boat lunged up and then flexed as it crashed back onto the surface of the water. I slid halfway across the deck before I got my gear off and secured it against the rail. One by one wide eyed divers flopped on to the deck and locked in their tanks. I had been paired up with another single diver who didn't know a soul on board. I made sure she was on deck, and then I wrapped my hand several times with some deck line. I knew if I fell overboard that no one would notice until they did the final head count at the dock. I didn't fall overboard. I did find out that a thunderstorm is much more pleasant under the surface than on a rocking, salt sprayed, vomit covered, boat heading back to port.

There is the surface of things and the depths of things. There are at least two-sides to everything. Life is very three dimensional or maybe even multidimensional if you count the past and the future. At lunch the other day someone tucked in the shirt tag of a co-worker.

She said, “was my fag tag sticking out.”

I remember that was a saying some twenty years ago (give or take). I remember saying it often.

I said, “geez we have tags to worry about too!”

I was joking around but suddenly something in my brain sparked to life. I was on the other side of things. I was listening with my newly discovered lesbian ears. That old phrase took on new meaning. It was a calling out of a group that I never knew I belonged. There really are others like me.

It sounds silly I know. We all have tags and labels, but some of them carry more weight than others. I am a diver, a woman, a mom, an estranged wife, a girlfriend, a lesbian, a friend, a would be writer. Only one of those sticks out with any stigma – possibly two – how many times have I heard my boys call each other “girl” to insult each other? Its been countless if you want to know the truth. I tell them if you are a girl then being a girl is a pretty good thing. Being whomever you are is a pretty good thing – no matter what label you choose to carry and what label you choose to reject. It matters that we see ourselves and, for that matter, each other from different sides and angles no matter from which side you are looking, there is always another one to be considered. If there is a surface there is always depth. If there is an inside there is an outside. I am not totally convinced however that there is a completely right side and a completely wrong side about a lot of things. I guess that kind of pondering is for another time.
Posted by Layla Proudfoot at Monday, February 14, 2011 0 comments
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