The creeping shadow of boredom darkens my countenance. It presents itself in opposition to the crystal blue cloudless sky. A Father of two children, staring down the barrel of the big four-zero, I’m painfully aware of an approaching finality.
“My life is dull and I’m getting old”.
Anita shifts uncomfortably to my right as she navigates our car through the traffic. Our daughters content themselves by gazing out the passenger windows as we head down to Gordon’s Bay. My wife barely contains a sigh. I’m in one of my not uncommon moods.
“Your life is not dull, and you are not old”. A bland reassurance from the woman I love is not enough. In two years’ time my life will reach what will probably be the half-way point. Excluding the birth of our children, the last ten years have been exciting as cold porridge.
Popular opinion would have you believe our world is male dominated. There is no place for the delicate, the sensitive, or the feminine. Aggressive, masculine energy shapes our society. This prevailing wisdom twists me in knots because my bones tell me it is untrue. My dull, masculine-free existence to date is testament to this.
Get and hold down a stable job, service your crushing debt, no risk taking. Don’t rock the boat, watch television instead. Have a beer.
It’s a small mercy most men are unable to contemplate the horrendous paradox we find ourselves entangled in. Yes, we seem to have dominion over the Earth. Yes, we worship and follow Gladiatorial sporting competitions. Yes, we are in the process of decimating most ‘lesser’ organisms within the biosphere. All very stirring, yet hardly any of us get to stand with our arms raised against the day; our enemies bleached skulls beneath our feet, war paint on our face and a blood curdling cry of triumph escaping our throats.
“Progress and enlightenment,” is the glib retort. That does not sound too masculine to me. Try convincing the male psyche, with its roots reaching back millions of years to the remote past that now is the time for being sensible. “Get and hold down a stable job, service your crushing debt, no risk taking. Don’t rock the boat, watch television instead. Have a beer”. The western male is not guided by masculine energy; rather he is bossed around by the expectations of society, a frowning matron with a white apron, not a magnificent, barbarian with unruly hair.
I peer through the gloom of my disposition and notice we’ve arrived in the street above Gordon’s Bay. Our girls excitedly trot off down the path as Anita and I follow, beach towels and snorkelling gear in hand.
We establish base camp on the sand and my eldest daughter joins me in the water while my youngest engages in sand castle construction with my wife. It’s not long before my daughter decides to return to shore as the cool waters of the bay cause her to shiver. I ensure her safe passage back to land and glide back out into the bay. Long, lazy fin kicks propel me forward.
The sun warms my damp face and I stifle a laugh at the perfect day, the perfect conditions.
Although resigned to my passionless existence, a sense of pleasure begins to pierce the veil of my ennui. The summer sun is striking the jade, mirror-like surface of the ocean. Small Port Jackson sharks cruise above the emerald kelp. I look up from my water gazing, back towards shore. My family splashes in the shallows, their outlines form an idyllic seaside painting. I look back down into the water and my gaze follows the rays of light down to the sand. A magnificent Eastern Blue Groper glides past.
An iridescent sheen dances in the light and catches my eye. The artefact sits a few meters below me, half buried in the sand. My younger daughter’s shell collection will benefit from this discovery. I duck dive down and inspect the object. An unremarkable piece, yet there is an enticing pearl like quality to the inside. A brief inspection convinces me the shell is uninhabited and I return to the surface.
My head breaks the surface of the ocean, the Mother of all life. It was only a brief visit. What did I bring back from the deep, the repository of the unconscious mind? The sun warms my damp face and I stifle a laugh at the perfect day, the perfect conditions. I place my masked face into the water again to gaze at the boon I have brought back for my little one. The present moment compresses into a terrible image that freezes my blood.
The shell is in my left hand, held between thumb and index finger. On top of the weathered conch sits a quivering, many armed nightmare, its soft body pulses with angry blue rings. The appalling arms unfurl over the fleshy part of my hand. The primitive part of my brain gazes at death. Adrenaline and my survival instinct jumps in the driver’s seat. I fling the neon blasphemy from my hand and look towards shore. The skin between my left thumb and index finger is itchy.
The figures of my family seem so far away. Am I really one hundred meters from land? Keep it together … start swimming. Left leg, right leg, and left leg.
My thoughts plead with the cold, uncaring universe. I’m not ready to die.
My dripping form walks out on the beach, my shadow falls across my family. “Darling, I’m in trouble, please gather our things and meet me at the car, we’re going.” My certitude does not allow for questions or arguments. I trudge back up the hill towards our car, my wife behind me, marshals our daughters to vacate the beach.
Dead man walking.
My thoughts plead with the cold, uncaring universe. “I’m not ready to die”.
I can see the car at the crest of the hill. My legs begin to seize up and I feel like my arteries are filling up with lead. “Is this really it? There is still so much I want to do”. I push through and reach the car. A couple walks past, and I address them. “Excuse me. Do you mind waiting with me while I ring an ambulance? I have just been bitten by a Blue Ringed Octopus and may not be able to finish the phone call”. They reluctantly nod as I reach into the glove box for my phone. No doubt, my pale sweaty face tinged with a calm sort of madness gives them pause.
Triple zero is called, my situation and address are given. I thank the couple who depart when my family reaches the car. I try to reassure my family and the ambulance arrives. The paramedics pull me out of my wetsuit and drive me at great pace to Royal Prince Alfred Hospital. I can still breathe unassisted when I arrive. Nurses place me in a bed and poke and prod me.
It turns out I was lucky that I saw the tiny venomous creature when I did. I had managed to remove it before it broke the flesh. My legs seizing up on the way back to the car was simply shock. To be certain, the doctors want to keep me under observation overnight.
I wait out the long, tedious hours for the return of my family. I see their angelic faces in my mind’s eye and contemplate the enormity of what I almost lost. The abyss heard my frustration and had vomited forth adventure in the form of a nameless and hideous thing to placate the tedium of my existence. I passed the test and it sank back down whence it came.
Boredom is not so bad.