Residue of sand and chalky seawater stained the bottom of the white boat. My stomach churned and my mind swam dizzily as the boat rocked with each passing wave. It was summer vacation, and we were at the entrance of the Blue Grotto in Capri, Italy.
The sun beamed ceaselessly. I buried my head in my knees as beads of sweat trickled down my cheeks. Stretching my arm out so it hung over the side of the boat, I skimmed my fingertips across the gleaming, teal water. The water glistened with small bubbles as my fingers grazed the surface, leaving streaks that immediately collapsed in the crest of a wave. Against the dimpled edges of the cliffs, small pools of sea foam collected in a milky haze, mixing with the pure turquoise of the Mediterranean Sea. The sky was pleasantly empty, except for a few circling seagulls.
Boats were crowded around the entrance of the grotto, a conglomerate mess of screaming children, sleeping teenagers, and impatient adults. Though I could not understand all the languages being spoken around me, I knew people were getting tired of waiting.
“Mossa! Levati di mezzo! Stiamo arrivando attraverso!” Our brown-bearded tour guide shouted hoarsely as he gripped the two steering paddles and started adjusting our boat direction. The pack of boats began to separate, and our boat reached the entrance of the cave. I realized that the opening was less than three feet high!
Before I could start having doubts, our guide grabbed his paddle and yelled, “Lean back as far as you can! Look straight up! Get down as low as you can!”
My brother looked at me, eyes filled with fear and curiosity, barely squeaking out, “Are we going to be okay?” My mother calmly assured him with a strong smile, patting his head.
Closing my eyes tightly, I leaned back in the boat and felt it being propelled, perfectly timed with a wave, through the entryway of the grotto. For a split second, my eyes could not adjust to the dark interior of the cave. But, when my vision cleared, the beauty was indescribable.
The cave walls formed a low dome that reflected the luminescent water below. The seawater glowed a fierce aquamarine near the entrance of the cave, fading seamlessly to a dark sapphire deeper within.
I dragged my fingertips through the phosphorescent water and noticed to my surprise that they left behind glimmering silver streaks. I flicked droplets and sat mesmerized at the precision of each ripple as the droplet touched the surface of the water.
At that moment, all I wanted to do was dive into the sleek ripples, away from the chaos and pandemonium of reality.
Reflecting back on this experience, I realize that when I was drifting dreamily on that small boat far off the coast of Italy, I was free. Free from the harsh expectations of the world around me, free from the stress of trying to create a successful future, free from all the inequity that existed. For those few moments, I had experienced true bliss. Sometimes, the smallest moments in life can bring the most profound happiness. One musn’t take them for granted nor miss the opportunity to make the most out of everyday life.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.