This morning, on my walk with K., she tells me a story about a man she met - the oldest man to swim the English Channel. 15 hours, 59 minutes he tells her, is how long it took. Sixteen miles of it, she says, he swam in total darkness. The vastness of the ocean, the pitch black night. It is difficult to imagine that kind of faith.
I think of the movie I always think about when anyone mentions the sea. About the couple who go diving and are left behind. Open Water. The hours they spend in the middle of the wide ocean. How they hold each other as they watch the light fade. Knowing what will come, knowing how it will end, but not when, exactly.
But the man. The English Channel man. How that faith seems a little like madness. All those hours with no markers. How do you even know when you are going forward, when you are going back?
This is not to say that I wish for myself this kind of faith. This kind of fierce determination in darkness. Faith - or whatever this is that compels one to carry on in the face of so much unknowing - is to me a frightening thing. To me there seems a kind of quiet beauty, a kind of self-knowledge that comes with doubt. But perhaps I am always one to look for a way out of the difficult things.
Yesterday, I spoke with my friend J., of the too-large, romantic heart. She is losing faith in the man she loves. “A kind of self-protection to pull back,” we both agree.
He is withdrawing. And it hurts too much. Eleven weeks of summer gone, she says, caught up in thoughts of him. A silk nightgown washed thin.
The sadness creeps up on you, she says. You can’t see what’s around the corner.
The man. The English Channel man. My friend K. asks him, how do you keep the jellyfish away, the sharks? Do you wear nets?
This morning, I am tired on our walk. I drag behind a bit, holding us back. We talk of the man, and we talk of work. We talk of what’s around the corner.
J. asks: How else can I be, but this? I wish I knew another way to be. Perhaps we all wish this, a little.
Sixteen miles in darkness.