I went swimming across the universe once. In late summer on the Black Sea, plankton lights up in the water as you enter it – sending alarm messages in case you’re a possible predator. I used to be terrified of the sea at night, but I had begun to change by then, which is why I was able to terrify the plankton instead.
Turning away from the shore, I swam towards a hint of horizon, with stars above me and stars below, nothing between me and the water and air. Every single movement of my body produced light, while the sky above moved as well, lighting up with meteorites. The night before, a meteor fell into the water just a hundred feet away – we had been convinced it was a rocket from shore at first, but I was on the (mostly empty) shore at that late hour, and I knew for a fact it couldn’t have been a rocket.
“How is that even possible?” We asked each other as we sat and stared out across the dark water.
“Maybe it’s a sign,” I finally said.
My parents never get tired of telling me that they “made” me on the Black Sea, in Yalta, to be precise (famous to American history students for that one uncomfortable picture of Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin). It seems that whenever I return to this particular body of water, it changes me, the hidden currents rearranging me from the inside out. I suddenly discover I can swim very well, for example, and that the dark no longer scares me. Stars glow at the fingertips and aim for the head. The world begins speaking in new languages – I see “No Fate” written on a rock, like a hello from a fellow fan of one of the greatest movies of all time (of all time!), and take it as evidence of fate. I become braver, a little more daring, a little bit more assured in the fact that I’m on the earth for a reason and this reason is a good one (you’d be surprised, how hard it can be to believe that at times).
In the water, I wasn’t afraid of the primordial darkness and lack of anything solid beneath my feet. I guess it can be said that I wasn’t afraid of my own mortality, then. The inevitability of death didn’t bother me; I felt free.
Also, I wasn’t alone. Sometimes, being alone is important. This time, not being alone was what counted. I thought, “I could be complete. I could do anything now.” And did.
In between the Black Sea and now, I quested. The nature of the quest isn’t important to this essay. Most people go seeking “Higher Wisdom” at various points of our lives, and most of our stories sound the same. Retelling them can be like retelling a dream. It was super-important to you, and it made perfect sense – but it’s tedious gibberish to most other people. Unless it has a plot, and I’m not sure that my quest did.
Well, not up until recently, anyway.
Recently, I was lying down in a little room. I could see the sky, early to darken, outside, and someone’s balcony and glowing window from my vantage point – the balcony and glowing window suddenly reminding me of the courtyards of the Kiev of my childhood. The doctor sitting next to me was giving a litany of very precise details to the nurse, and I was lulled into forgetting that the three of us were in Moscow. We could have been aboard the Starship Enterprise, for all I knew.
The doctor turned the monitor in my direction and pointed a few things out. I stared.
Finally, I pointed to patch of incredible, rapid movement, and said “Oh my GOD, what IS that?”
“That,” she said, “is your baby’s heartbeat.”
“That’s happening inside? RIGHT NOW?”
I started to laugh. I laughed and I laughed, and the doctor laughed with me, and then the nurse joined in – maybe out of politeness, just to let me know that my reaction was normal.
“That’s the little heartbeat, and that’s the little nest,” the doctor pointed to the gestational sac.
“It’s funny you should say that,” I said. “I call him little bird, for now.”
“Do you think this will be a he?”
“I have that feeling, yes.”
I really do have that feeling. I’m not sure if it’s just nature’s way of jerking me around a little. I don’t think it really matters.
For now, the visible heart is afloat in the dark sea, keeping its secrets. The one thing I know about it is that it’s not afraid.