It must be the heat. It must be the intoxicating, taunting, absolutely undulating heat that coaxes me to do it.
The air itself seems to whisper hotly in my ear, begging me to risk it all and take the leap. Every inch of my body clenches: every inch of my body buzzes with unsettling anticipation.
I don’t pause to dip my toes in the water, but use them to grip at the precipice of my comfort zone. Something is wrong, terribly wrong.
It’s the fear in the eyes, reflected onto the wavering mirror of water. It’s the sickening sway of the sea in the pit of my stomach.
It’s the sinking weightlessness of my heels as they leave the comforting concrete. I know the warning signs; how irrational it all may seem, yet still, I plunge into the depths of hysteria.
I am an experienced swimmer-- a veteran of the waves if you will-- but the shock of the cruel cascade against my skin is an unwelcome occurrence to which I will never grow accustomed.
For a brief while, I am able to stay afloat despite the jolt. I tread against the current of bodies around me, soaking up their dose of the summer heat.
Stretching out my own arms to embrace the sun, I hope to blend in, but the vain grasp at normality causes me to sink deeper still.
Suddenly, I am paralyzed by the weight of the gallons upon gallons that surround me. With every attempt at a gasp or sob, my lungs become bloated bladders of chlorine.
My supply of oxygen, once steady, shallows. Even the blinding sun soon seems to fade into that dismal shade of blue.
Down here, so far beneath the bustling surface of children laughing and splashing, it seems that my silent screams will go unnoticed.
I begin to fear that I will be silenced forever at sea, but as it always happens, a red cross-bearing beacon shines through the deep darkness and guides me back to earth,
and the summer air I greedily intake has never tasted sweeter. When I exhale, it is always a sigh of relief.
I have known panic attacks for as long as I have known how to swim. That drowning, sinking sensation has haunted for as long as I can remember.
They have followed me from elementary school science fairs to high school PowerPoint presentations, to job interviews.
These lapses of petrification are seemingly the only constant in my life that I can’t seem outgrow or shake.
In spite of their frequency, their familiarity, each attack is systematically designed to drown me. I have grown quite proficient in the art of concealing my ailment.
For a while, I can steady my breathing; control the existential crises that threaten to crush me with their weight. But more often than not, I find myself sinking and losing sight of reality.
I am immobilized by the stress that surrounds me; silenced by the cries stuck in my throat.
It is only by the hand of some ascendent force that I can surface again: be it a familiar face or a strange deity. In the strange aftermath of an attack, I am startlingly calm.
I recover my breath and wipe my tears with no fear; no dread for anything but the next stroke of anxiety, the next time I jump off the deep end into a set of conclusions.