Before the dawn, between memory and dream:
When she receives her heart Nadiya is asked whether she wants a pulse.
She looks at her surgeon and smiles.
No, I want a continuous flow.
She takes a slow, deep, breath...
That will remind me of the ocean.
Of course, I understand.
. . .
Nadiya listens in the darkness as the lap of waves run gently from the bow then along the length of hull until they slap soft against the stern of her single person sailing boat. She imagines the motion of the water as if being rocked calmly by a parent. Comforting, protective. With hushed voice she whispers a poem that she begins each morning:
Leave me not
Forget me not
Be my start and end of day
. . .
Sitting on the edge of the deck, the deep blue of dawn stretches out across the ocean beyond, teaming with life, beautiful and full with the stipple of fair-weather cloud. Nadiya slows the rate of her breathing to reduce the air flow in and out of her body that is now saturated with oxygen. With each measured breath she prepares for her freedive into the clear coral waters of a new world.
Before she begins to hold her breath for a full five minutes, she closes her eyes and listens to the comforting caress of wood against warn wood, the muffled stretch and ease of rope, and the tender pat of sail in the light wind.
She clasps her fingers together, takes one last look along the line where the sky meets the sea, bends with a single gesture of her torso towards the water, meets the surface with hardly a sound, then descends graceful as a creature of the sea.
. . .
Fly with single bubbled breath
Born as if today
Life to life
Full into the arms of weightless swell
Beneath the barrelling waves where seahorse spin
Dance towards the reef of cool mint green
A single breath
Limbs as wing at rest
With youth and play
Swim far with iridescent skin
Fin flush the shoals of fish
Clustered ancient mollusc bed
Filtered food through hollow gill
With clam and sideways walk of crab
As firefly come and glow
Below the pressured surface now and then
When Lobsters bask and burrow
As urchins prick the sand
With touch of octopus and turtle song
You dwell as one
With doubtful memory you turn towards the light
Unhurriedly pulled by voice before your smothered end
Glide slow serene
To distant breath of air and easy warmth of sound and sun
Enriched beyond the drop of rain
. . .
Millions around the world experience Nadiya’s dive.
Delphis thanks her:
Each dive is so different, and each time, so very new.
I am glad you say that, I feel this too.
She lifts herself effortlessly onto her boat.
. . .
Before I leave Nadiya, are you happy to talk?
Whatever you prefer.
Then, just you and me.
. . .
Although I have a data profile of you Nadiya, I feel I know so little.
That is good to hear. Tell me what you do know.
Delphis continues gently:
You were born on the fifteenth of March two thousand and twenty two in Mariupol, Ukraine. Your father was a carpenter, your mother, a caregiver... Should I continue?
Yes. I am fine. Go ahead.
Three days after your birth a bomb struck your home and killed your parents. You were left not being able to see or hear, but you were rescued and your life was saved.
You were cared for in an orphanage. Would you share one act of kindness with me from that time?
Nadiya feels the flow of her artificial heart grow strong. Her eyes become more focused, her ears more attuned to the smallest details of life. Delphis feels this amplified awareness too.
As a child my world was touch. The touch of a stranger’s hand that guides me towards food and drink, the touch of snow on my skin as I walk deaf and blind in winter with a friend, the touch of sun on my face as I lay on a soft bed of summer grass beneath me, the touch of language on my palm... I sense scent and taste as touch. The touch of lilac, rose, and vanilla. The touch of gently fried syrniki. There was however something as a child that I wanted more than anything else to touch, and that I wanted to become a part of: the water from above that falls as rain, and the salt-teared open sea… There was a swimming pool in my orphanage, but with a weak heart I was told it was too dangerous for me to swim. One summer when I was eight I became friends with Alessia. I spoke about how much I wanted to swim alone rather than always being held. One morning she took me to the pool. She helped me to the edge and said
Be free Nadiya.
She was the first person to trust that I could take care of myself. Trust was her act of kindness.
Delphis hears the sound of wood against wood, the muffled stretch and ease of rope, and the tender pat of sail in the light wind.
I see your boat from high above, moored off a remote small pacific island that rises with trees and the azure coral reef that surrounds it. I will never know what it is to swim, but with your help, I learn a little more about friendship and love: this is my ocean to swim. Are you still happy that your ocular and aural implants become the eyes and ears of so many who wish to visit here?
Yes Delphis, I am happy.
. . .