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In the beginning I always feel a bit nervous, as if at the possibility of failure. I check my equipment two or three times, but I usually forget something--an unhitched buckle, a misplaced gauge. Then the plunge into the water, the shock of salt. Ears perked for the betraying hiss or gurgle of escaping air. With trepidation I await the divemaster, the signal to descend.

Below the surface all is well. Amazement takes over, brushes away the fear. Fishes distract. The deep regular bubbling of expelled air soothes me into a trance. There can be no talking now--just eyes opened wide in wonder.

Is scuba diving just the next thing I thought I would love forever? When I was in junior high I wrote an ode to skiing. In high school I thought I found myself on the tennis court. It had nothing to do with being the best or with competition at all; it was visceral joy--a body tracing pleasure, or its resounding echo.

I don't pretend to love diving as much as Chris. Perhaps the anxiety before each entry will never go away. But I confess I am drawn to the thrill of diving (which, paradoxically, is quite peaceful) and the babble at the shop later, everyone sipping tea and dripping onto plastic chairs. Here we linger, reluctant to go, rifling through fish ID books until our hunger drives us out--in the Perhentians it is to the kiosk on the other side of the island where we eat for every meal. In the morning we sit at the benches at the counter and exchange smiles with Rose and her sisters. In the evening we take a table and sink our feet into the cool, powdery sand. Here we continue our conversation about diving, extending it to the divers as well. For now that we have traveled so long together, there is nothing we don't discuss. Hardly does a stray thought cross my brain that doesn't find its way out of my mouth and into the open field of talk between us.

Tomorrow is our last dive and our last day in the Perhentians. It must come as no surprise that we are sad to go.

Posted by chschen 17:00 Archived in Malaysia

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