Summer nights were so hot that even having a sheet over me was too much. Often I'd have a new fire coral rash on my stomach or shoulders and the itching would get so terrible every few hours that I'd have to wake up, pull the mosquito net from under the mattress, and splash balsamic vinegar onto the rash, all the while doing the mosquito dance to keep them off me. The vinegar was the only thing that stopped the itching. And then I'd notice my girlfriend laying there partially clothed, and the game would be in motion, her pushing me away, saying how I smelled like a salad, and me laughing.
With the ceiling fan whirling above us, movements confined by the netting around us, sweat running off us, we'd play a game so familiar and so thrilling, the fight of life, the moments spent in the dark that make the rest of the day worth living, whispers that touched my soul and often returned in memory, gentle, passionate nails in my back....
I'm sure the population of my village increases steadily due to fire coral.
Yes, of course I learned to identify fire coral underwater, but if I looked into a cave, and could see several lobster, even though it was guarded by the itchy coral, I wouldn't hesitate to swim inside, the current pushing me into the coral, pushing, releasing, the rhythm of the sea, the rhythm of creation. Does it surprise me to learn that sea water has the exact same salt content as embryonic fluid? Not at all.
Did some part of me know at those moments of decision, that I would be kept up at night, that I'd spend hours reliving the rhythm of the sea? I laugh as I realize that I probably did know.
Oh, to feel so alive again, to be alone on the reef, that underwater jungle, feeling the thrill of survival, of risk, the sun on my back, light playing in the water, the spear gun pointing out in front of me, free of words and all the shit that fills my mind each day, to have life stripped bare, fileted to the bone, senses strained to feel everything around me, knowing that at any second I might not be the only predator in the water.
And now, years later, would I enter that cave? Would I shout so loud to hurt my lungs and plunge into the Caribbean with a spear gun, and venture into that cave, that rhythm, and dare life to carry me on the current once more? I'd like to think I would.