brian antoni: escapology

from Iguana Love by VICKI HENDRICKS

That night I sat in bra and panties under the ceiling fan next to Snickers. She was a rex cat with short, curly hair, a perfect adapter to the tropics, same as I was, but I couldn't stretch out and relax like her. I couldn't watch T.V. or read the words on a page if I tried. My system was electric, sparks wanting to shoot from all pores, my teeth hurting to bite, my nails aching to claw. I felt the pressure rattling my lungs. Life was all around, but I wasn't supposed to have any. I'd stuck it out for months. That night I couldn't anymore.

"Gary?" I called from the bathroom to the living room where he was watching TV. I was putting toothpaste on the brush. "I'm taking your truck, going out for a little while."

"Where?" he called back. "Where are you going?" By then I was scrubbing my teeth, making garbled sounds in answer, like I was under water--where I wanted to be. I spit and rinsed and dashed into the living room to get the keys from the hook. "I'll go with you," he said.

I walked past. "I'm going down to the bay. Just for a look at the water." I went back, plunked my ass on his lap, and stuck my tongue in his mouth. I was back up before he could get his arms around me. I patted his tousled head. "Just wait 'til I get home, hon. I'll fuck you 'til your eyes bug out."

He reached to tweak my thigh under the shorts and let his hand drop. "Be careful,"he said.

I tried to walk out instead of fly. Relief was a rush when I closed the door behind me. I knew a bar near Biscayne Bay--Seabirds--where the diving instructors hung out. It was my first time there, but in seconds I knew they all wanted to fuck me. When I pulled my stool up to the bar, I could sense it pulsing under the surface of their spear-fishing and wreck-diving conversations, inside the taut nylon of their Speedos. The sex flowed naturally in South Florida. I'd known it would. You could smell its tangy scent in the salty humidity coming off the ocean.

That night I had a fling--one wild night would be enough, I thought. It was safe sex; no expectations. But it was hot, the freedom scorching. Waves of pleasure dragged me further from Gary, way out, beyond the safe waters of our marriage. He must have known. I came home at four, high and cocky with myself, sweaty, but he didn't ask any questions. I worked him hard from on top and his face relaxed into its bleary, peaceful look, now that I was back with him. I figured he was trying to let me get through what I needed, instead of starting trouble. But I couldn't control my appetite. I wanted to fill myself with the sensual mystery of the divers and their ocean--forever.

My dreams took on one color, the sparkling blue of open water. I had earned my diver's certification, but by the time I paid for lessons, I couldn't afford the gear. Gary said diving was a luxury that had to wait.

I tried for weeks to soothe my cravings, stay home, watch TV. I floated through hours of Cousteau documentaries, languishing in his French accent; swaying to the rhythm of waving sea fans, straining for a longer look at gobis that disappeared into their holes, and searching for flounder eyes in the sand. I wanted to eat a fish live, like Philipe Cousteau, when he surfaced on the mini-sub, plucking a bittersweet orange wriggler from the indentation of the hatch, and cupping it into his mouth. I tasted its slickness on my tongue and felt the crunch of tiny bones. I obsessed on the ghostly forms that lurked around the corners, beyond the limited peripheral vision of the dive mask, panting barracudas that could have me in a blink, I imagined, if they desired. I wanted to tempt them. Instead of calming my lust, I fed my fantasies.

Soon I was there again, at Seabirds, where my diver friends hung out. I was hot, just waiting, looking around. One diver had a photo of his girlfriend in snorkel gear, being towed on a line behind a boat. She was holding onto a life preserver--scanning the bottom for lobster, he said. The picture was taken in the Keys, in a few feet of water, and plush turtle grass shone like filaments under the surface. Half a body-length behind her was a dark gray shadow, a flat torpedo silhouette over two times her length, three times her width. The shark never attacked. No one even spotted it until the picture was developed, but the diver identified it as a tiger shark, a type known for aggression.

I was fascinated by that image--I wanted to be there, a part of that wild balance. I didn't understand the dynamics, her power over him, but the two were perfect together. I held that picture close to my chest to study it in the smoky bar light. I saw freedom to dare. I saw brute strength under control. I felt a tingling in my stomach. I knew I had taken a step towards the big one.