The Secret Party

Entry by: zoanne

18th March 2016
The Silent Party

I joined the party once I’d stopped trying to stand upside down. It’s a very solitary thing to do, trying to stand upside down, even though you know you’re being watched by at least one person all the time. Not the same person, of course. They have better things to do. They’re at the party.

The people at the party hover like bluebottles. Not the sort of bluebottles that fly around, buzzing and bumping and generally making a display of themselves. The people at the party hover like bluebottles standing on meat, just where they want to be. Do not disturb. They hover, and they watch.

The people at the party are benevolent. They're interested in other people. You can tell, because they lie so still. It's beautiful to watch them. Once decide to join the party I lie very still too, and we slowly watch each other. I lower myself until my fins make landfall - only just touching - then inch my way back up, motionless. I hope I look like not-a-muppet. Jim slouches upright into the water column and nonchalantly crosses his legs. Show-off. Sooner or later someone's going to tweak his fin.

I do my best to copy Rob, because he's old and calm and hangs like a rock in the water. I don't copy him for long, because life's too short, but it passes a bit of time. His head is breezing back and forth, almost invisibly, as though he was somewhere with waves instead of the bottom of a swimming pool. He's doing nothing but float and watch. I stop pretending to be cool and perceptive like him when an ugly clump of hair comes floating towards me. I waggle my foot and drift off. Jim's gone, now. I fin to where he was sitting - just for luck - and swivel onto my back. It's rubbish. Gas stops coming through my regulator and water leaks into my mask. My buoyancy breaks and I lean into the surface on an embarrassing, uncontrolled diagonal lurch running directly counter to the traditional direction of gravity. I've screwed it up.

Awkwardly, there's a sudden chaos of splashing coming towards me. It's a swimmer - one of the old boys lapping up and down. It's too late for public swimming but friends and associates of the SCUBA club show up for a late night dip. It's not the done thing to crash into them from below. I whoosh the air out of my lungs and buoyancy-aid as fast as I can, and drop like a flailing fledgling to the pool floor. Elegant. Try again. Look for approaching swimmers this time.

The party's still hovering there, at the bottom of the pool. Silent, motionless, naught but the waggling of a beard or the amused glinting of an eye to suggest there's life in these bluebottle-critters. I don't know if swimming upside-down is a regular SCUBA skill but I prat around for a bit longer, messing up, making an earnest fool of myself, before I hit the overhang again and go back to standing upside down.

It's tricky. You can face the open water and flip over with a lot of space for your legs (and your feet, in their flapping fins), but then you end up with your nose to the tiles, trying to orientate yourself with a wall in your face. Or, you can hold yourself straight upright, facing the side, and roll backwards, getting an eyefull of the whole pool roller-coastering around you, bright light from above lurching into light from below, and the bluebottles all silently watching and - weirdly - staying the right way up. A lot of tricks get played under water; most of them involve your eyes. Some of them involve Jim.

I make it, in the end. My fins are flat against the overhang and I'm just hanging there like an apple, standing upside down like a sleepy bat, and giving little hops and wiggles when my buoyancy remembers to misbehave. I chill out there for a while, feeling pretty cool. Then I notice the beard wagging up towards me. It stays pointed in my direction for a while. Nice.

It's like I just became the life and soul of the party.