ROBERTO ROMEI ROTONDO
Roberto Rotondo is a distinguished artist
living in Montreal. He is the author of the antidisestablishment
blog entitled Up Yours,
and would rather listen to Led
Zeppelin than Mozart.
the beach where I lay reading the epic Melville whale tale the
buoy appeared no bigger than a bowling pin, a mere yellow thing
floating in the distance. At first I was indifferent to it but
as the days past I found myself watching it with growing interest
, swimming a bit out to get a better glimpse of it, then turn
back. Couldn’t have been more than 500 yards from shore.
A mere twenty laps at the pool. Even at sea I’d several
times swam considerably farther than that. No, the distance
didn’t phase me.
yet its mere presence spawned a certain feeling of disquiet
which both intrigued and disturbed me.
as the ocean calmed down I’d swim for it.
never want to be far from shore on turbulent waters, regardless
how confident your stride. If I learnt anything in my student
summer job as cabin boy upon the Charmer it’s to respect
the sea, however seemingly tame and inviting. Besides the moon
would soon wane and with it the tide. No point in taking chances,
though my patience was running thin. The buoy had become an
obsession. I couldn’t keep my eyes off it. I had to get
near it, to see it up close, to touch it, perhaps climb atop
of it, ride it. It became my Moby Dick.
waves slashed on as the days rolled by and that yellow reliable
sentinel of the seas always there, keeping place, dancing subtle
and alone upon the briny sea
with the rise of the waves I’d lose sight of the buoy,
never for more than a few seconds yet enough to arouse in me
a feeling of anxiety, a senseless sentiment to be sure, as I
well knew it could neither far navigate nor sink, but this being
in keeping with the absolutely irrational enchantment I’d
fallen prey to only added to the enticement of my quest.
then one evening the waves did quell. The buoy stood still.
Its light shone brightly. At sunrise I’d swim out to reach
at early morning St. Maarten’s waters are pleasantly tepid,
their swishing soothing, as they ripple along the sands leaving
coralline treasures in their wake while pelicans fly the coast
of the isle scouting the shallows for fish.
in the distance the buoy shone brightly bouncing the day’s
first light off its yellow skin.
my swim out in breast stroke dipping my head and torso, inspecting
the sea bottom then coming up for air looking out up and ahead.
Every so often a wave rose higher than most and, my head being
now level with the buoy, I’d lose sight of it, sometimes
for several strokes. This made me uncomfortable and I’d
pick up the pace eager to gain a glimpse of it again This repeated
itself and always the same feeling prevailed.
some minutes the sea bottom grew deeper and darker. Black splotches
of what might have been sea weed lay below like ominous shadows.
And the farther out I swam the murkier it got.
seas are vast and boundless. The big fish is everywhere and
given its uncanny speed always near, however far, always near,
as near as its whim, the whim to go for it, for me, the intruding
swimmer. Thoughts of this kind must run through one’s
mind as the shore fades in the distance, as the bottomless blue
grows thicker as all sound is swallowed up by the all surrounding
splashing of the unfurling seas, the only other sound being
the humming breathing of your lungs as you spear beneath the
water and up again for air. The fish is always there, in the
back of your mind, Jaws is always there. Of course one often
hears how slim the odds of getting clipped by one of those monsters.
But then again, not too many bathers dare venture farther than
a few dozen yards . . . I must have been more than two hundred
away when these thoughts began assailing my mind, thumping repetitively
like a mantra. But I kept up my stride regardless, keeping it
as smooth as I could , keeping the waters unruffled , quieting
all thought, phasing it all out.
the seas is the closest thing to flying. The buoyancy of the
waters breaks the resistance, the flow is easy, the salty taste
delightfully cleansing and real. There is no truer taste than
the sea. I felt physically well, the breathing full and smooth,
my neck relaxed, but the buoy seemed hardly nearer now than
when I’d left the shore. Even the most experienced of
mariners finds it difficult judging distances at sea.
the waters turned bluish grey and I’d glance up at the
sky. Clouds hurried past the rising sun casting their dark shadows
everywhere across the ocean. And then warm colours once again
and on I swam and up the buoy bobbed, the yellow spar now appearing
considerably bigger then I’d imagined it from afar. It
must have been at least 200 hundred yards up ahead yet I began
to feel uneasy seeing it there jostling up and down and about
as though challenging me, beckoning me forward, if I dare. I
stopped for a few seconds, looked behind me, breaking my stride
for the first time since I’d left the safety of the beach.
Seemed like hours since I’d began my swim though it couldn’t
have been more than fifteen minutes. Too far gone to turn around.
Couldn’t be more than a hundred yards from the buoy. I
had to get to it. I swam on.
every stride the thing now grew bigger and more and more ominous.
Its bob more arrogant and menacing, frowning at my audacious
advancement. And the waters beneath darker and murkier still.
I swam on, my head now always out of the water, looking around,
hoping to see nothing. No more than thirty yards from the buoy,
its bulb now fully visible. Like a gigantic pumpkin some five
feet in diameter. I swam on hurriedly yet cautiously. At a distance
of ten yards I stopped. Its skin wasn’t as bright as it
appeared from far. It was weather beaten, soiled, barnacles,
weeds and algae clung to its base. At five yards I again stopped
and listened. The thing seemed to be moaning as the waters hitting
against its bulbous hollow resonated liquidly. A huge inanimate
object. It had a purpose, but it didn’t seem to belong
there prisoner to a spot in the middle of the sea. I moved on,
now at touching distance. Its base was inches thick with sea
filth which had accumulated round its belly since who knows
how long. I dunked my head beneath the water. A thick rope with
greenish tentacles clung to it and ran down and disappeared
into the seemingly bottomless featureless obscurity. I no longer
feared the buoy. I pitied it. I touched it. I caressed it. I
hung on to the metallic handle on its pin, stayed with it for
a few minutes, resting, happy beyond words to have made contact
with it, but uncomfortable to the feeling of my legs dangling
defenseless to the deep darkness beneath. I involuntarily found
myself humming Williams’s haunting Jaws theme
-- the brilliantly conceived two note melody.
I began to swim for shore, looking back every now and again,
wondering if I’d ever be with IT again.
asked. The buoy was 700 yards from shore.