The Diver

I found a book called She Woke Me Up So I Killed Her on a book merchant's sidewalk table on Astor Place. If the title (or the scribbled dedication to the former owner: "praise the lord and pass the double donged dildo") wasn't enough to make me buy it, the second story was:
The Diver
by Ramón Gómez de la Serna

He was moving from cabin to cabin in the sunken ship, remembering the ships on which he had traveled himself, thinking of them too as wrecks, all ships, those that arrived and those that did not.

He came to closed staterooms, where, once he had opened the doors he had the impression that their women occupants had been in the act of putting on tropical dance-costumes: much decoration and little covering.

It seemed to him that he had come there to collect the passports at the final arrival, and that the passengers would soon be hurrying to present them to him, after looking about for them in the drawers full of photographs.

With his lantern he stumbled into the galley with its rows of hanging cups; it was like the ultimate heaven of all cups and pots.

In the writing room he found envelopes with wills inside them, and saw for himself the fact that wicker rises in water.

He came across dead coins, tips lying in the passageways, stewards who had drawn the bath only too well, waiters fallen onto their piles of dishes, and the dishes looked like giant chips used in the game with death. He saw the ardors of intertwined legs, rows of marks on the walls showing how many days were left before the boat was due to arrive, cancers no longer hidden by the pale and exhausted passengers who carried them.

All this he withstood, but when the poor divers with the huge eye—the watchmaker's glass for sunken ships—opened the door to the second-class dining room with its green chairs and its assemblage of exiles, the dead people there, whether because of the sudden current set up in the water, or out of delight at the sight of the diver, rose from their seats and began to sway slowly, a sarabande of human fish, moving like dolls to absent music.

The diver, terrified to see so many people rise from their seats at once, turned, rushed back along the corridors, and rang the emergency bell to be taken to the surface

When they removed the fishlike helmet from his head, he burst into laughter and sneezes.

—Translated from the Spanish by Paul Bowles
Besides the intense claustrophobia I felt reading this story, it ultimately reminded me of the one—and only—time I scuba dived (dove?). I had somehow wound up all by myself (against all first-time-diver rules) standing maybe fifty feet down on the bottom of the ocean. The thought struck me, "I do not belong here. If nature had her way I would be dead." While it's true I've had the same reaction being in airplanes or in Albuquerque or maybe even some day outer space, never was it as strong as that day I was standing on the ocean floor. "Standing on the ocean floor." Even writing it freaks me out a little bit...

See also:
Jacques Cousteau
Ghost Ship (2002)
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954)
Below (2002)
Hatchet (1988)


patrick hilton said...

Ah, but it is nature's way.... Your species evolved complex thought, communication, and tool-making skills that eventually led you to be able to do things such as stand on the ocean floor. Our brains are our gift and our curse, as we use their power to recognize and appreciate in the complexity and fragility of the natural world and in destruction of the planet that raised us. Were we not able to dive to the deepest depths, how would we know that we shouldn't just throw our nuclear waste down there?

If you really want to get philosophical about it, though, it's not really "nature's way" to be sitting in an apartment building, on the internet, blogging, either. Or is it?


Liam said...

I really need to stop drunk blogging at 4 in the morning, or at least come up with a symbol to indicate which are stupid drunken posts everyone should ignore...

... said...

"i should have been a pair of ragged claws, scuttling across the floors of silent seas"

hey - i've tried to like paul bowles -- why did the sheltering sky suck so much? is there something better of his i should read? my dad is kind of obsessed with him. xo-gg