February 11, 2014

Hold Your Breath



{Photos by Kristian Schmidt}

For the past two months I've wanted to book a vacation to somewhere south. I hate the snow and the cold. Then last week my friend, Igho, texted me to hang out. When we met, he asked if I was still interested in taking a trip. He didn't care where. He just wanted to go somewhere warm. This was music to my ears. So the next day we booked a trip to Cuba for April. Then two more of our friends decided to join us. The more the merrier.

Then last night I found out that 2 of the people I'm going to Cuba with can't swim.

How can one not know how to swim?

Not even doggy paddle? Float?

I suppose if someone's parents never enrolled them in a swimming class. Or if they were born in a desert and their parents' idea of extracurricular activities is enrolling them in lama breeding. Or if they were born in the prairies the ideal fun is to clean a hunting riffle and listen to non-stop country music about trucks and cheating spouses. But born on an island and lived on an island for 24 years of my life, my mind cannot comprehend not being able to swim. Because in my mind, at any time, a tsunami can crash onto the island, wipe out your house, separate you from your family, and leave you alone in a large body of water. At any time, BC Ferry can sink like the Titanic, and you're forced to swim to a life boat where you begin your ghetto Life of Pi journey without the trippy CGI.

In a sense, I pity those who can't swim because they can so easily be killed. Just push them off a bridge, into a river, into a pool, and 'oops', they vanish from the face of the earth.

It's sort of similar to those who have severe allergies. Like a kriptonite, they can be so delicate. Like a dainty necklace, so easily broken. And I can relate: rub my face in aloe, and my face will wake up looking like the deformed bell-ringer in Hunchback of Notre Dame screaming "NOT THE FACE! JESUS! NOT THE FACE!".

My parents are afraid of sick people, and they certainly don't understand deathly allergies. A guy I dated, Anthony, was like that too. Once when I had major hives on my arm from my aloe lotion he told me to "stop scratching" and that my irritation was "only psychological". In a way they are like me, who don't understand how an adult can not know how to swim. I don't think we fear the unknown. I think that when it comes down to it, those people remind the rest of us how precious life is, and how easily it can be taken away. And that scares us.

Everyone is unique. We have our finger prints to prove so. But some reminded us that anyone of us can die any day, at any time. They remind us that even though we have a shitty day, it can always be shittier. And in return all of our complaints then sound pretty insignificant. The dryer didn't fully dry my clothes. The roommate didn't take out the garbage again. My bossy colleague is being extra bossy today. Compare to say, the family dog's tail accidentally knocked me into the backyard pool and I sank like a rock and almost died.

And without these daily complaints, there is little to say at the dinner table.