After the Pier

September 29, 2009

I reckon the scream of joy and relief and near-coital ecstacy came shortly after I put myself out there, into the water so glacially cold. Fell backwards into it, I did. Gleefully.

That periwinkle Seattle sky shifted its gaze at me between clouds. I’d been walking Westlake for awhile, the rippling sheet of the lake’s water refracting back all the buildings and bobbing/weaving boats as my footfalls echoed against the cement in the still autumn air. My suit was pressed and perfect, my face freshly-scraped and my hair lacquered to a faultless sheen; neat as a pin and ready to function productively, I was.

What possessed me? Hell, I don’t know. All I remember was the surge of uncontained joy I felt as I spun like an Olympic discus thrower, hurtled my briefcase into the lake, and watched the leather case smack into the water’s surface. It burst open, vomitting up reports, resumes, pens, and my cell phone.  Then the lake methodically swallowed the case with a few undistinguished gulps. I was a slave watching with joy as one arm’s shackles disintegrated and fell off.

Needed to purify myself, to feel the lake’s icy life’s blood wash away the antiseptic anonymity. The water–oil, pollution, and Godknowswhatelse-laden as it was–looked so very pure and sublime, like the holiest of Holy Waters, and its humble lapping at the barnacle-encased wood and asphalt along the dock made me swoon.

That was when I walked to the edge of the pier, staring into the lake mesmerised. Then I pivoted on one foot so that my back faced the lake. The water lapped away softly as the smell of the water filled my nostrils.

A track-suited middle-aged woman jogged by. Technicolor-red hair bounced on her shoulders as her green eyes locked with mine. She smiled politely at first, then her courteous mien segued to curiosity, and finally to shock. At least that’s what it looked like when I pushed my feet backwards and vaulted into Lake Union

The Smear of Blue that borders both sides of the gray was God not me

The Smear of Blue that borders both sides of the gray was God not me


My  body smacked into the water, and the jolt of cold woke every nerve ending. I screamed reflexively, a loud whoop that felt like impurities being coughed out of me. For a few seconds I was fully submerged beneath the dark green water. The jogging woman’s form moved along the edge of the pier. I could see her through the film of algae and water, vague and diffuse: She gestured frantically and pointed, but the utter silence ‘neath the surface rendered her and the other forms gathering near her purely abstract.

All of the people at the edge of the water looked unremarkable and smeary even after my body rose back to the surface. They scurried around like perturbed rodents, oblivious to the fact that I wanted to be there; that I’d made the choice to jump into the unknown and chuck everything they’d built to shore up their dissatisfaction. I backpedaled away from them, further to the center of the lake. And I could hear the jingling of the last set of shackles as it left my wrist and sank to the lake bottom.


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