I was once tasked to write something that involved proceeding, without any obvious junctures, from one constructed time frame, a time frame set in the present, backward to an earlier one.
For example (the task explained), close your eyes and picture someone, an imaginary person, a person unknown to you but existing effortlessly nevertheless, imagine that person right now, somewhere, in an unnamed location. Picture that person lying in a warm bath there in that nameless location, in a neutral state of mind. Then, occupy their memory. Once established there, allow yourself to be transported seamlessly back to something (good or bad) that happened specifically to this imaginary person some time before today.
And I (incorrectly) began to picture myself, in a specific, known place, at a specific time in the past. I remembered the night I swam in the sea with a stranger — no, wrong, with a friend of a close friend.
First, I thought of us driving together along the Connemara Coast after leaving a party somewhere way out in the wilds, heading back towards the city where we both lived, and I remembered being grateful for the lift offered, the unexpected chance to get back home to my own bed that night.
I thought of how we were both drunk and fearless and didn’t want the night to just become the next flat white morning so decided to stop at the shore on the way back, stop in order to swim in this night water, and how going out of our collective depth became our singular unspoken mission on that silver strand
and how this person and I did not know each other in any significant way prior to our shared act, excepting having my friend in common, a friend we both loved, and how we two strangers, so tenuously allied, now found ourselves together, relying in a way on each other, out in the Atlantic Ocean in the middle of that dark night
and how it could easily have happened that we both drowned then and there in the night sea, just disappear below the surface, bob back up dead somewhere later, probably a good distance from each other but maybe together, maybe the currents would have kept us tenderly aligned
and how we could have been linked forever in a tragic death-by-drowning story, a story with loose ends, with frayed untied uncomfortable ends, but instead the night became a retrievable memory or rather a slip-shod series of fragmented memories sewn back together possibly incorrectly and certainly not in their original linear fashion of happening
and how one of these jigsaw pieces is the memory of the roughness of the sand spread evenly on my bedsheets the next morning and how it was to wake up to something that I had already accepted in my sleep
and how this other person did in fact die tragically not long after
and how we had never told anyone about our diversion that night though this secrecy was not something we had discussed or agreed on, this secrecy would have been an unlikely agreement made between us, this secrecy came into existence simply because nothing was placed in its stead, and because he is dead this is something we can now never negotiate
and how it is possible that maybe none of this actually happened at all and how as the years inch by everything that has happened inevitably and seamlessly merges (converges) with things that nearly happened or things that were wished for or things that were hidden, converges like geographical longitudinal lines rising slowly side by side by side, to meet in time at the poles, to end there, at that brink
and how the intention here seems to be to try to link the ritual of water immersion with an idea of thresholds, as in baptism, the sharp-edged before and after of it
and does one side negate the other, do the immersed come out different than when they went in, not better, not worse, maybe an inverted version of themselves
and does the word antipode do this idea any kind of justice, is writing this a kind of threshold, is reading this maybe a kind of threshold, unasked for
and so, I ask you, will you allow yourself to picture the miraculous immeasurable sea, and is the surface of this sea that you are imagining trying to become some tangible plane, the surface itself having no actual substance, just an invisible line bearing witness between above and below, and is the present that we are laying in together here now maybe nothing more complicated than a body of water’s formless surface, is it just this line between what happened before and what will happen after, and what is the answer to that question, and is it a question at all, and have you been allowing yourself to picture the sea.