There once was a young farmer in a land far far away from the oceans and seas. His name was Ali and he used to help his father take care of their land. He learned a lot about farming during his childhood. And when he grew up, he learned that farming wasn't his thing. He decided it was not enough for him. He made up his mind to try something new. Something more profitable.
One fateful day, bid his friends and family goodbye and ran after his new life full of adventures. Was he ready for what's ahead in his road towards a meaningful and prosperous life? He did not know!
He had no specific destination in mind, only one deep and cryptic feeling about the ocean. Something about the ocean has always attracted his thoughts and desires, and even his dreams. He has read about it, he has imagined it, and he has dreamed about it so often. Unlike in real life, he could always swim easily in his dreams. He would apply what he has read about swimming in his dreams, and it's always his best dreams. He always regrets waking up after having those ocean dreams, or that's what he calls them.
A lot of walking, some public means of transport, and many random pickups took him finally to Bizerte, the fascinating Tunisian city where the mountains meet the Mediterranean sea. It was in the bus station that he set eyes on it, its calm and sparkling waves greeting him, a black flag raised on its beach to announce that swimming is legally forbidden, but practically just inadvisable, because everyone was swimming.
Ali doesn't even think about where he's going to stay the night or what he's going to have for dinner or how he's going to afford any of that. He's hypnotized by the treacherous waves. They look like they are approaching him, yet they seem to be getting far the more he walks towards them. He doesn't decide to start running but his feet are moving faster than they should be physically allowed.
He doesn't remember taking off his clothes but by the time his feet touch the water, he was only wearing his short pants. He doesn't stop to see how cold it is, he just runs towards it, then into it, then through it, until he faces the life or death decision of: "Should he swim in the deep water or should he stay where his feet can touch the sand?"
A few steps before the virtual red line, he stops to admire the surroundings, to truly enjoy his life for a little while. Because he's afraid he won't survive his next decision. "I was never this scared in the ocean dreams." He says to himself.
He looks at the black flag on the beach, falling lifelessly on its stick. He knows what it means, he's read about it, but he still smiles at it. A false alarm that was ignored by everyone else, why should he give it any attention? The ocean deserves all the attention he has.
His father has taught him a lot about the land and about how precious it is and how many sacrifices his ancestors have given to keep the land for him and for his sons and grandsons but the ocean was never part of those "stories". These waves belong to no one, which means to everyone, him included, although it feels like he belongs to them not the other way around. He stops his train of thoughts there and brings his mind back to reality.
Everyone else has left the sea. The motionless black flag has burst to life and started bustling as if calling him out. He starts moving but the sea seems to be dragging him in. Will it be the end of him? He was scared but somehow happy at the same time. Wasn't danger what he was after in the first place when he left the farm? Wasn't he going to swim deeper anyway? Here's the sea making the decision for him.
He keeps walking out and the sand under his feet keeps pulling him further inside and the waves keep hitting him, trying to make him lose his balance. That's when he decides to do it before it's too late. He stops walking. He gives up on the moving sand. Instead, he starts kicking the water down and pushing it with his hands, just like he always does in the dreams. His moves are random and asymmetric but they are efficient. Minutes later, he starts getting tired, but his moves become more regular and more coordinated and to his delight, he gets closer and closer to the beach.
And that's how Ali learns how to swim.
To Be Continued
Image source: Pixabay