2002-Gay Games Snorkeling

The yacht from Cairns is docked in the middle of the ocean. I had my snorkel affixed to my head and nostrils. The snug fitting flippers stuck to my feet. The yellow goggles pressed against my eye sockets. I was on my road to a headache. This is so different from being in the Kauai last year. We entered the water from the beach.

The yacht is populated with thirty guys from my boyfriend Neal’s swim team. Sydney is home for my first Gay Games in 2002. Ten thousand gay and lesbians throughout the planet competing in swimming, water polo, diving, running, dancing, and wrestling. Neal has been patient with me as I learn the lingo. Am I supposed to know that DQ means disqualified? What is free style? Mixed relays? I struggle to get excited about watching the swimming heats. This is a new skill. Nothing like watching the Academy Awards, Emmys, Tony’s or Grammys. World records don’t mean much to me. Seeing speedos glide across the water isn’t my idea of entertainment. Yet here I am in Australia. I wouldn’t have traveled here if not for Neal. A companion piece to the Olympics. The aquatic competition is done and this side trip is the reward.

The Great Barrier Reef is new territory.  The bristling cold stings my skin as I jump into the ocean. I feel like the shark in Jaws as I watch the fluttering legs of all the fat free swimmers.

Neal points the way towards a flock of fish. The smattering of color collides with the sun piercing through the ocean. I focus on shapes and sizes. I blink at the translucency. My mind goes blank as I suck in the rich pigments. If I was a painter, I would take the fish hues and splatter them on a canvas. I would flush away dull blacks and greys. A dust storm blurs my vision so I flipper to clear my eyes. The reef shoots below me. I see moon craters. Colored Swiss cheese pockets. Transfixed by ocean life.

I have always considered myself uncoordinated yet I am able to easily breathe through the snorkel tube. The deep breath fills my lungs. Large sea turtles inch across the sea top. I am hypnotized by the quiet gurgling.

Salty sea water seeps into my mouth. I begin to spit. Panic alert as my nostrils belch snot. I drag myself up above the water. As I rip off the snorkel, I gulp oxygen. Where is Neal? I am off course. I don’t see the boys. I must have drifted.

“Neal, Neal, Neal,” I hoarsely shout. The sun has been bullied by clouds. A dense darkness strips the sky. I feel a pull. Is that a fish or a shark? Yes, it is Neal my sweet savior. I am rescued. I follow his lead as we stroke towards the distant yacht. My thighs ache.

“Come on Gordon. It’s just a little farther.”

Easy for him when he does a hundred lap workout four times a week. My swimming ended six years ago in 1996. Prior to 1996 water exercise was a major vice along with walking. It refreshed my joints and muscles.  When I bought my first computer, I abused my forearms, elbow and fingers trying to master chat rooms, the internet, and e-mail. My body rebelled against the computer learning curve. The upper body became inflamed when I swam more than a few laps. Snorkeling took little energy or muscle action. Swimming back to the mini-ship was taxing.

When our feet secured themselves to the boat, I grabbed hold of Neal and cried.

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