It all starts with a blue plastic card. I tap it, the gates open, and I am lowered down into the deep waters.At first I hold my breath, panicked that I might not be able to breathe.
But without fail, my gills open. I not only can breathe, I can swim.As I plunge into the ocean of an underground, sights and sounds change. There is a rumble in the distance and vibrations pick up through the waves. Moving bodies together create friction and heat. With time, the ocean had greyed. The colors are dull and rubbish floats to the side.
The current is swift with many different channels to choose from. As one tiny fish, it is easy to get lost. But I continue to move forward.With the first dive, I must choose the school headed in the right direction and link in to the group. We swim and we swim and we hurry and swim. And then we wait. I wait for the whale to swallow me whole.
A deep rumble signifies a whale is close. It quickly crescendos, and suddenly piercing eyes are lighting up the dark ocean as the body swimming past causes hearts to accelerate and lungs to gasp.The jaws open wide, inviting fish inside.
Sometimes their belly is empty. Sometimes their belly is full. But as I wait in the pit of its stomach, I say a prayer.And I listen.
The fish sitting with me are vastly different. And themes of their appearance match with the location of the whale. Up north, most fish have pale scales with decorated black and white garments. Wearing blazers, pantyhose, and ties, these business-fish are swimming for work and tote their briefcase under their fins. As the whale moves south, the fish change. Gone are the pale scales and a new pattern emerges. The whale swallows fish that adorn many different tones; black, brown and tan shimmer through. As a pale fish, I am in the minority. But I still belong in this school. And I continue to travel onward.
And I think.While swimming through the fast paced underground, there are some fish who are not moving, who are overlooked again and again by the schools. These fish are the ones to the side, sitting with close to nothing and asking for a little something. But the schools continue to move past; never dropping their eyes in fear of making contact. As a school of many, we forget that we are just made up of lots of individual, free-thinking fish, the same as the one who isn't moving…
The journey can feel like three days and three nights.But always, the jaws open again and I am dispensed once more into the ocean of an underground and must swim my way to the top. This is the most dangerous part, moving against the current. As hundreds of other fish swim quickly down, I have to pursue my way up, swimming upstream as I feel my gills morph back into lungs and I am gasping for air. For sunlight. For the shore.
A touch of the card, a beep of a green light, and I am once again on solid ground.
I used to be scared of fish. Now I feel myself trying to become one.
Sometimes accompaniment isn’t about walking. It’s about swimming.