It is a slow fall into bed. Finally my back hits the slimy comforter.
I lie at the silty bottom of the expanse looking up at the mud-green sky. Bubbles froth out of my mouth: little popping balls of glass, each one containing a breath of my soul. I keep them in as long as I can, and part with them regretfully like the click of a clock.
Nothing speaks. Not I, not anything. A baby pinecone, lodged in the sand. My shoulderblade against it. My hair balloons out like the syrupy petticoat of a jellyfish. Gelatinous non-polyp.
My eyes screwed wide open, my mouth shut tight, arms out. No one can hear me. No one can see me. For sixty seconds I stop existing. The blue has swallowed me up, suctioned me in: on the surface are refracted triangles of light and ruddy cabins and stalactite pines. On the surface, screaming: orange vests, caustic plastic, shrill whistles, polyester yellow bathing suits.
Down here, silence. I am swathed in a womby shift, soft and luscious. Hush. Swush. Swipe. Little ripple of my hair. My heel falls involuntarily and taps a rotted leaf. It is enough to disintegrate the offal into a smoldering puff.
Where there was scorching air on my arms and legs, there is now mild water. I see all in abstraction. A wavering mushroom-yellow filter, a bouncing ceiling. Anything surfacey is blurred, is opiated. And the thick heartbeat of the lake - thrub, thub, thrub - is primitive in my eardrum. Burdens flake off me and instantly decay. Nothing is required of me. No one demands. No one pokes. No one finds.
Oh, I am obliterated. Playing with the fraying strings of responsibility; I am cradled. It is trance-inducing, and the light of the sun only keeps me conscious, like a dancing mobile above a crib.
Then my lungs give a buzzing whir, a warning - bells that are wired start knocking. A burning tightness crawls up my throat. I kick. Do I surface because of evolution? Do I surface because I must check the list of twelve campers off, because of guilt, because of twenty-four years of machinery habit? Or - I would like to think - maybe for the pleasure of breaking the sun; for my crown shattering the ceiling of diamonds. Maybe to feel the heat skidding along my arms, evaporating the beads of wet. You cannot cry underwater, so maybe to cry. Maybe to - later - drag the lake for my exoskeleton, and find it and pull it onto shore.
And then to step into it.