the interrogations of shamshouma

On the difficulty of diving


I have never been able to dive, and no one has ever been successful in teaching me how. I also have problems with jumping in general, but that’s another story.

I have began to think, especially after yesterday’s last attempt to learn, that successfully learning to dive is tightly connected to the apocalypse and might even be one of the signs for the world’s ending. Yes, I find it that hard.

As I nailed my feet firmly into the ground, and stared at the deep end of the pool, arms placed in a diving position, knees slightly bent, while all the others dived and dived and dived, memories of my experience with failed diving came rushing up. And it went back a long way.

(Beirut University College (BUC, now LAU) ; summer program, forced attendance by parents- 5 or 6 years old)

Day one of swimming class:

“gather around everyone. See the deep end where we are standing? see the water here? (she points at a specific spot) a child your age drowned there last week because he didn’t follow the rules. He went all the way to the end of the pool and drowned, then sank ALL the way down.

NEVER go to the deep end.

And now let’s start our class!”

I will never forget that deep end of the pool, nor the face of the child I saw staring at me and floating down there. He was a fat and playful kid. And he followed me everywhere for a while.

I learned so much in this summer program, I learned that there is a big game going on and that even the kids were in on it. I learned that I preferred to be alone and that no one has ever taught me how to talk to people and be all giggly and fake. I also learned that you are not supposed to say عفوا when you bump it someone but “sorry”. But this is a story for another day, our story is about diving, which I obviously did not learn in that awful summer camp at BUC.

The Neverending Story II

(Father, Diana Beach, Al Damour–8 or 9 years old)

My first real diving lesson.

Dad: “Ok so you stand at the edge, that’s right (BOOM…), you bend your knees just (BOOM…) a little (BOOM…) bit..don’t (BOOM…) be afraid of the (BOOM….) water, that’s important (BOOM…)

me: “Dad, are they firing at (BOOM…) us? people are leaving the pool (people were racing, picking up their things, getting their kids out of the pool)

Dad: “Don’t worry my dear, they are firing heavy artillery from this side to the other, we are (BOOOM…) not being hit. just focus on the (BOOM) diving position..(BOOM)…don’t be afraid (BOOM)! you can do it!

Mom: “Mounir, maybe we should just (BOOM) leave

Dad: Nonsense, keep swimming (BOOM) keep swimming..

My brother: But dad..

Dad: Keep swimming (BOOM) it’s alright..

My brother: but we’re the only one left dad

Dad (to me): Never mind anything (BOOM), just jump!

(Brother, Diana Beach, from 5-15 years old)

“I’ll teach you how to dive, just do this (he dives). Come on, just do it. Just do it. Like this! (he dives). Why are you not moving? like this! (he dives). what is wrong with you (pushes me in the water) like this (he dives)!

Like this, look (he dives) ! Like this (he dives)! you spend all your time reading and you can’t dive! like this! (he dives)”

(Mother and father, kitchen table, Sunday, a little bit intoxicated (just a little bit!)- 14 years old)

“come here, sit down, we need to tell you something. I love your mother so much, we have found each other and we are lucky. But don’t think this was easy. Chances are, you won’t find love in this world.

“whaaaat? but I thought…

“Chances are, and I am talking about probability (this conversation is ingrained in my mind and as much as my parents like to deny it, it totally happened), you are probably not going to find someone who loves you the way I love your father. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try, you need to dive into the world and dive into life and search for love, even if you probably wont’ find it

“But..why are you saying/doing this to me?!”

“it’s for your own good. And it is because we are lucky to have each other.”

The Neverending Story II

(Mother, on life-15-17 years old)

“Look, stop being so depressed. Stop talking about feelings. All you do is read all the time, you never do anything adventurous, you never take a chance on anything or anyone, you never take any risk. Look at your brother, he dives into life, he jumps in the pools of life. He doesn’t care if he even breaks his legs! he recovers and moves on. You, on the other hand, have to analyze and reflect and think about everything that happened and is happening to you. You’re so afraid of doing something, you should just dive.”

As I stood at the edge of the pool yesterday, the face of the fat drowned kid floated freely and playfully. I heard and saw distant heavy artillery, my father screaming at me to jump, my brother diving  in circles around me, my parents talking about diving into life and love, their faces full of emotions and intensity. I remembered my only successful attempt at diving two years ago, in a form of a beautiful personal breakdown that I called “Free Fall”, which lasted for a while. I remembered how lovely it was to let go of nerves, emotions and body, I took a deep breath then “dived” into the pool and hit my head, chest and legs first.

It was painful. But at least I dived.

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One thought on “On the difficulty of diving

  1. This triggered a flashback: it was maybe 1992, a late afternoon in a Zahle swimming pool (Rihab), the whole place all of a sudden got eerily (and blissfully) empty.. It was like a dream and I had the pool all for myself! alas, my mom rushed me out, we got in a car when I was still wet, BOOMS & tayaran, and we did not go back home for several nights.. good ole Lebanese adventures..

    quick tangent: if you ever get the chance to try freediving, the deeper you go, the more love you’ll encounter- at least as per my experience.. then again this is coming from the ‘fat, playful kid who [would have] followed you everywhere for a while’.. 🙂

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