I'm standing waist-deep in the water in Monterey Bay, hopping around on one foot and trying to get a fin on the other. I've got a mask on, am remembering to breathe so I won't panic, and remembering that remembering to breathe means remembering to breathe through my mouth, not my nose. Sometimes I try to inhale through my nose, but there's no air, and the impulse to pull off the mask and gulp in air as fast as I can is almost too much to resist. Just like I put up with airplane rides (terrifying) to get to where I want to be, I will squash this physical reflex I get when I put a mask over my face and breathe through a snorkel (that I'm not entirely sure I trust to not send a dose of saltwater into my lungs).
SG knows that I'm nervous; he helps me with my fins without making me feel dumb. My heart is beating too fast from ignoring the urge to get everything off my face. He is so patient with me that my heart starts beating faster from being happy. It's enough to tip the panic back down so I can keep going. I can't just put my snorkel in my mouth and my face in the water and go. I have to put my face in, quickly pull it back out, steady myself, and then try again. The water is murky, so I don't have much to distract me. But I can see SG, and there's a single blade of seagrass reflecting that shimmering hypnotic glowing quicksilver underwater light.
After I get more comfortable he tells me to float with my face in the water, and to not kick my legs or move my arms. The sun is warm on my back and I am amazed to find that I'm completely relaxed, listening to the underwater sounds and my own breath going in and out of the snorkel. He tells me that I can just relax and float, that I don't need to work so hard. Then we both put our faces in the water and start to swim around. He takes my hand, and we swim together for a little while. I'm not scared, not even a little bit.
Later we get lunch, then drive down the coast a little further, to a beach on the side of Highway 1 called Garrapata. The waves mean business here. It's too beautiful to be real, but there are ants crawling on the blanket and kids with buckets braving the surf to get water for their sandcastle. SG and I are on a blanket in the hot sunshine, and when I touch his shoulder it's hot. too. I come home with photos, but they don't even come close. Not even a little bit.
Next we drive back north to Carmel to get in the water. My feet won't let me in, though, because the water here is colder and walking in it makes me cry. SG is tougher; he goes in and I watch him from the shore. When we leave, we go to Moss Landing, to meet my mom and stepdad at Phil's for dinner. I'm tired and sunburned. I'm happy. SG goes to get us a couple of glasses of wine, and comes back with glasses that are filled to the top and impossible to carry without splashing. And I look at him with his full hands and all I want to do is wrap my arms around his neck and tell him how damn grateful I am every day that we found each other and how I can't exactly get my head around how much I love him. Instead I take one of the glasses from him and sip it down and wipe it off. And he sits down next to me. I hope he knows.