On coral reefs, winter
Sharing another draft of creative writing! Check back within a week for a more polished version. This draft incorporates text from a BBC news article.
“Giant pristine coral reef discovered off Tahiti.” She clicks on the headline on the same day she discovers that her heart beats too close to the surface.
So close, she can’t resist the impulse to create.
So close, she can’t keep it safe.
"The coral reef is one of the largest discovered at that depth, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific & Cultural Organization. Dr. Julian Barbiere, from UNESCO, said there were probably many more of these ecosystems 'we just don't know about.'
"'We should be working to map them & to protect them,' he said."
As she reads about coral reefs, curled up on the third floor amid a snowstorm, she tries to visualize the living wonder of this place. A subterranean metropolis, thriving off tendrils of sunlight that reach thirty meters into the sea.
"French underwater photographer Alexis Rosenfeld said it had been 'magical to witness giant, beautiful rose corals stretching as far as the eye can see.'
"'It was like a work of art,' he added."
Closing her eyes, she wants to be there. As if, unfazed by deep-sea diving, she’d effortlessly sink into those depths and calibrate her body to their demands with ease, fully present to the wonder unfolding before her.
She has always loved the ocean. But as she grew, she began to question this love. How could she say she "loved" the ocean when all she knew was the shore?
In high school, she writes, "How could I love the ocean when I've only stood upon the fringes of its existence? When I've never set foot into the alphas & omegas that breathe unspoken realms to life beneath its surface?"
"Prof. Murray Roberts, a leading marine scientist from the University of Edinburgh, said the discovery brought home how much we still have to learn about the ocean.
"We still associate corals with the shallowest tropical seas, but here we find a huge previously unknown coral reef system."
Years later, she’s paying her rent by working at the counter of a local bakery, where the sound of her voice greets hundreds of customers.
A musician, she can’t resist the possibilities of her voice in this setting. What experience of care can she craft through the inflections and cadence of her voice?
“But they’re strangers,” she tells herself after every shift as her body hits the couch, depleted of emotional energy. Why treat strangers with such care?
Because the chance to perform — if only behind a counter — is irresistible. Her exhaustion betrays a ragged determination, shattering the threshold of emotional labor in food service — to perform an irrational, absurd kind of love for humanity.
Her heart beats too close to the surface.
"UNESCO director general Audrey Azoulay said the 'remarkable' discovery extended our knowledge of 'what lies beneath.'
"The reef was found during a diving expedition to a depth known as the ocean's 'twilight zone.'”
During slow shifts at the bakery, she busies herself by organizing, cleaning, restocking. One winter, these tasks are interrupted by the impulse to check her phone, as if promised an irresistible discovery.
When customers stroll into a slow afternoon, they find a young woman sitting on a stool, texting. She greets them with a cheerful voice, a starry light in her eyes.
"We still associate corals with the shallowest tropical seas, but here we find a huge previously unknown coral reef system.
"As shallow waters warm faster than the deeper waters, we may find these deeper reef systems are refuges for corals in the future. We need to get out there to map these special places, understand their ecological role and make sure we protect them for the future."
When she meets him, her heart is a coral reef in shallow waters. His words reach like sunlight into a foreign ecosystem, not knowing their full weight.
That winter, she writes too much.
the way we
way my voice
er the way
my arm after-
"Coral reefs are among the ocean's most threatened ecosystems — vulnerable to pollution, rising sea temperatures & the change in chemistry caused by carbon-dioxide emissions dissolving in the water."
Midwinter, the last time they speak.
"There is currently 'no evidence' this reef had been damaged by those pressures. Dr. Barbiere said its unusual depth was one reason it remained in such a 'very good state.'
"'Generally we find them at shallower depths,' he told BBC News, because the algae that lives within the bodies of corals needs light."
The discovery provided an important insight into ocean biodiversity, Dr. Barbiere said.
"'We know that about 25% of marine species can be found in coral reefs,' he said."
On the day she reads about coral reefs, she discovers that her heart beats too close to the surface.
So close, I can’t keep it safe.
"One of the specialist divers, Dr. Laetitia Hedouin, from France's National Centre of Scientific Research, said: "We would expect a reef such as this to take around 25 years to grow & develop like this."
This year, I turn 25.
"We think that deeper reefs may be better protected from global warming.
"So the discovery of this reef in such a pristine condition is good news & can inspire future conservation."
How did this place feel to be “discovered"?
To feel its beauty finally — at long last — seen?
That night, she hypothesizes that even if her heart beats too close to the surface, there is a deeper place that has never been devastated — existing in calm, it waits for nothing. It thrives off sunlight reaching thirty meters into the sea. A pristine refuge, it revels in peace. With no thirst to be seen, it only rests in what is.
I have always been searching for it.