Floating, bobbing up and down, I was all alone. When I breathed in my body would rise up above the tiny wind-borne swells. When I exhaled, I would sink back down toward the surface of the sea. Such a pleasant feeling, bobbing up and down, one breath at a time, like a tiny bit of flotsam in an ocean much, much bigger than me. Blue and white skies above, turquoise-green waters all around, and one lone swimmer, insignificant in the ocean, much less the universe, surrounded by open water and forever sky.
In the distance I could barely see her. The small boat drifted toward me at a starfish’s pace. I could see the glimmer of water on a wooden oar from every few minutes, courtesy of the afternoon sun. She was blue and red, and looked to be about 10 feet long, her lone paddler just a speck against the crystal clear horizon.
At some point it dawned on me that the small boat and I were on a slow-motion collision course. Unknowingly, I had drifted out to sea. Still bobbing up and down, relaxed and at rest with the motion of the ocean.
The swimmer and the paddler, together with the elements, I thought. As we drifted closer and closer I could see his weather-beaten face, creased by a lifetime of exposure to salt, sun, and wind. He smiled. I waved. We drifted closer and closer until I was able to reach up and grab the gunwale of the boat, holding on tight to keep from drifting further from shore.
It was obvious that the language barrier would keep us from having a meaningful conversation. He spoke as much English as I spoke Spanish, which meant that we could hardly speak at all. Once he smiled and waved, however, and I smiled and waved back, it was almost as if we had known each other our entire lives. I gestured toward the bag hanging over the side of the boat, and he brought out each fish, one at a time, and said its name in Spanish. There were none I could pronounce, must less remember or recognize, but they were fish, freshly caught, in all colors, shapes and sizes.
I gathered from our conversation that he lived on the far shore and was headed home from an afternoon on the water. Dinner would soon be on the table, I thought, as there were a dozen or more fish in the bag. A lone fisherman with a soon to be table full of fish… what a welcome gift from the sea.
I asked about the name of his boat… Mamota. He beamed with a smile that went from ear to ear. Mamota, he said, and smiled again. In the course of our minimalist conversation, I gathered that the boat was named for his daughter. A tribute to her grace, perhaps, or her invincibility. Regardless, it was love that graced his smile as he said her name.
Moments later, the wind came up, and the boat started to drift toward the shore. I turned and started swimming toward the beach from which I had come. As I walked out of the water I turned and looked, once again, for the Mamota.
She had disappeared against the bright blue horizon.