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Some of us struggled more than others in the bright, salty, open water. I trained myself to do things besides move my limbs to stay afloat: I observed the swells and the light reflecting off of them at different times of day. I watched the fishing birds, and the way they kept an eye on the surface of the water and on each other, so that when any bird dove the rest of the flock would break toward him. Sometimes I came together with another small group of swimmers, and we shared stories about what we had seen and done. I noticed that in every group there was one person the others looked to. And although I was energized by each of these interactions, I spent most of my time alone.

Sleep was always difficult. To relax was to give yourself up to the current and the waves. Every time I felt certain that there was a real threat nearby, I started awake to find only the familiar sky and the glinting blanket of the waterline. I calmed myself down by folding my hands over the center of my chest, and I concentrated on the feeling of the wavelets that broke gently over my arms and found the space between my folded hands. I never slept through a full night.

Anders would come look for me often.

“Did you see that pod of dolphins?” he asked one day.

“No– what happened?”

He started with a laugh. “Sometimes they are skittish, but these two dolphins just came right up to me. They are so smart, and so playful. One of them poked his head up out of the water and looked me right in the face, about two inches away. And then—” he did that half-laugh again— “he flipped over and showed me his belly.”

There were long shoals we knew of, barely submerged sandbars that formed pools against the current where you could float effortlessly. The pools reminded me of the quiet chapels lining the sides of the nave of a grand cathedral. We spent many evenings looking for the different kinds of citrusy fruit half hidden like Easter eggs in the grasses on the surface of the water in those shoals, and talking about the light, and the birds, and the other animals we had seen.

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