Swimsuit and shades, sitting under a palm tree. Sunlight twinkles through spiked leaves above as I lay back in the cool sands of Bikini Beach. Hidden from the eyes of mainland Maafushi, foreigners bathe and splash in the Indian Ocean’s warmed waters.

As best as I’ve done to relax on land, my legs yearn to turn from walkers to flippers, and I run for water. A luminous layer separates the world as we know it from one of colorful coral, darting fishes, and creatures debating whether to play a game of hide and seek or show and tell. I play along, peaking into shadowed crevices, pausing for some, darting after others.  Breathing in the air through a long plastic tube, I feel the motion of the ocean envelop every inch of me.

 

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Angle. Banner. Butterfly. Fairy Fish.
I, it, he, she, green, purple, black, red, we become one.
Some of us disagree after time and move apart. Others find their likenesses and form a mass more impregnable than a single soul is alone.
Still, we glide as one. We flip as one. We breath as one.

At night, I lay my head in a sea of white. Cushions around me, I feel protected, safe, comfortable.
I am home. And yet I dream of another place.
A place I’ve just been and a place I’m soon to be once more.

Well-fed and well-rested, I escape again to this captivating environment. Wind turns water into waves. I wave back. They welcome me a second time. I jump in, dive deep. Swim with turtles. Sip on salt water. I turn over, face the sun. It’s the same sun as the one on land. Here it feels different. It hugs me tightly, warming shivering skins and painting smiles on all beings it reaches.

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We dive further, bringing the sun’s energy with. We show it to the ocean floor below, and the dark ocean smiles back. From top to bottom, we’re met with light and happiness.

This feeling is inescapable, tho it never asks to be escaped from. With each passing moment it grows until it manifests into something more powerful than yourself. Its tune rings louder the roaring of the boat’s turning motor. Its bite’s more poisonous than the sting of a glistening jelly fish. Its touch more gentle than the sparkling scales of a school of filefish. Its reach more encapsulating than the sea.

Genuine happiness.

In the distance we see black dots appearing and disappearing.
Dolphins.
We approach. They too greet us. Twenty. Forty. One hundred. Two hundred. Breaching. Diving. Flipping. One in particular puts on a show more energized than an acrobat on ecstasy. Show off. Crowd pleaser. Call him what you like. We’ll call him inspiring.

The anchor drops heavily into sand. With a splash and a tug it’s locked into place. We hop the rail and jump off the boat’s side. Waist-deep, we walk to shore. No houses, no huts. Sand and shrubs. A deserted island we’ve reached. Popular with groups, we’re joined by others from neighboring islands. We lunch and munch on rice, fresh fish curry and watermelon. Juice drips down or chins, ignored. It washes away with a single splash.

 

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Another night’s sleep. This time, my mind is convinced I’m a real-life mermaid. I don’t fight back. I am Ariel’s long lost sister and have found my way home.

Rain comes. For two days, it stays. What a tease.
We’ve been brought to an island state and are soaked in water even when we want to be dry on land. Sand roads are flooded. Businesses close early. Tourists stay inside. The sun becomes that much more sacred, and at its first appearance tourists and locals flock seaside to worship. Brought closer through the most minuscule hardship, we unite and rejoice. Once again, we’re one. Stingrays. Sharks. We’re all welcoming the sun and meet its smile with our own.

Thinking to leave without a proper goodbye, I pack my bags. The sun has decided this type of parting is unacceptable. He pushes clouds away and the saltwater is as eager as I to show appreciation.
With a family of four, I return to sea for a final day of diving, dipping, and dreaming of Mermen.
Pristine conditions. Visibility is superb. Is this luck, or is this life? Learning to expect the unexpected.
We stop to swim with turtles “if we’re lucky.”

 

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I jump in. Eyes wide, they adjust for a moment and spot slow movement.
This time, it’s just me and him. I call for others several times. At first they ignore. Capable of speeds greater than I, I equate his chosen pace to be an invitation to join. I accept. As two, we swim several minutes. My body slips into a meditative trance. We continue and eventually my irresponsiveness becomes a beckon for others. We’re surrounded. With all eyes on us, we continue our dance together. Knowing it will never be the same, I back away and let others find their own tune.

I close my eyes and remember his reaction to my apprehensive approach.
This is all I need.
The Magic of the Maldives is alive and well.

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