Three seconds

From the immense mass of water of the streams of the Paraná Delta, I recount the experience of immersion and the full range of associations that awoke in me. Paraná itself, a relative of the sea, which is born there in the Brazilian forest, brings the jungle and its sediments to these islands. I feel the water in all its extension, and all its rumors are concentrated in my body. Like the delta itself, the first emotion unfolds in a universe of timeless memories.


Sitting on the edge of the boat, from the stern, I let myself slide into the brown water of the wide stream near the Paraná of the Palms. I was the last; everyone was already in the river. The heat wave was raging like never before, and the rain is still elusive. Seeing so much water flowing interconnected, I broadened my mood.

Whenever I enter the water in a pool, sea or river, I do it slowly, very little, to feel the temperature and the reaction of my body. This time it was not possible, I had to throw myself in a single movement: so I let myself fall, trying to sink as little as possible.

It was a few seconds, maybe three; time expanded indeterminately, and my perception opened up in a range of sensations. First it was the contact of my skin with the mass of water: it was not icy, but pleasantly refreshing. Immediately I was sinking deeper than expected, in a period that seemed endless, my eyes closed and my ears rumbling with the dull, bubbling echo, in that slow-motion slowness that came from being submerged.

Three seconds that were joined in my memory to so many other aquatic experiences in my -already long- life. The first swimming lessons at the age of ten: I already swam, but I was afraid of jumping from the low diving board. Standing at the top like a stake, the instructor came up behind her giving me a little push while two other assistants were waiting for me: naturally I swam out and cured my fear thanks to baptism. Later, in high school and already enrolled in a club with my bank partner, we went to the indoor pool where Pablo the bather, a wiry man with tanned skin and a sixty-year-old belly, who had been a champion in swimming across the River Plate, took us as apprentices and taught us all the styles: crawl, chest, back, dolphin, American spin, to throw ourselves headfirst. When I started college and also started wearing contact lenses, I gave up swimming. From that age, my aquatic incursions were sporadic and measured.

My sign and ascendant are water. Water appears countless times in my dreams. The last time I remember, a couple of years ago, I was just in a hypothetical place in the delta, swimming like a dolphin from here to there in some wide and peaceful streams surrounded by green.

Other dreams have been between urban borders and the River Plate, going through imaginary areas that were flooded, muddy lands and surrounded by rubble where he walked. I remember the dream where I was in a bus along a surreal coastline passing through strange hamlets on one side, until it entered between marginal islands towards bridges surrounded by giant, majestic, and surprisingly blue waves.

Water and anguish were related when I lived alone in an internal apartment, just around the time my mother fell ill (“Borders and overflows, the collapse of the cliffs of the soul”, I wrote). My mother, who when was as a child almost drowned in a lagoon, back in the Chaco. These are stories of immigrants and precariousness, vulnerabilities and resilience. At that time and I think for many years, I suffered from crying easily, too much internal water to contain. It took me a few decades to be able to build these much-needed borders.

After that indeterminate period, finally, the rebound effect due to the weight of the water propelled me towards the tranquility of emerging to the surface, into the air, to breathe with my head out, with a slight discomfort for having involuntarily swallowed some water but the relief of being in the world. Everyone looked at me; I received some ironic comment from the owner of the boat for the original way in which he had dropped me into the water.

Going from the aquatic environment where internal sounds reverberate and vision is denied, where time stretches, until the violence of contraction breaks out to emerge into the world of air and feet on the ground... Could it be, perhaps, these three seconds a new rebirth? Rita Simoni, 2023

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