Cave-diving by George Michelson

In the sunken cave everything is gridded with day-glo string. This is necessary: Tunnels and fissures branch off into the karst and red clay, and most are unexplored. To lose her way would be unthinkable. She has eighty minutes of air at the beginning of her dive. Swimming like this, 20 meters under the halocline and 100, sometimes 150 meters into side caves that are black without their lights, the threat of suffocation doesn’t scare her. It feels familiar. The grid Jenny works is mostly bones. Two weeks ago, on 31-G, Miguel found a mask of Chaac whose features resemble Ned’s. I kept love at bay for a thousand years, the mask tells her, I’ll do it for another thousand. The hotel their team lives in occupies one side of a square between jungle and beach. Indians sell replicas of what Miguel is finding in the cenote and sometimes, fake as they are, she buys one. Women avert their eyes. “They think you’re a witch,” he said, “with your hair, and how you fidget.” Ned didn’t come this time, he had the grace to spare her that. What did come to San Luis this year are the cartels. Black SUVs trawl the zócalo. The men inside wear sunglasses, even at night. Half her team is bodyguards—everyone, in fact, except Alethea, Miguel, Jenny, and a sonar techie from Cancun. To be a bodyguard here means you have made a deal with the Zetas. At night she sits in the square with Alethea, with Miguel sometimes, always with a guard. As a matter of routine she brings the shoulder-bag holding passport and notebooks and the plastic case that protects her regulator. After a few beers she takes the mechanism from its case and turns it over and over in her fingers, feeling its solidity, the youth and brightness of its springs. Land crabs snicker in the dark. Men scrape guitars and sing songs about what men sing about. She writes nothing in her notebooks. The bones she finds, tags, and brings to the surface, are those of girls. This does not bother her. What bothers her is that it doesn’t bother her. Sometimes Alethea comes to her bed, sometimes Miguel: theirs is an open team, a college of loose liaisons. She recalls the umami taste of Alethea between her legs. Of Miguel she remembers nothing. Of Ned she remembers words: Your indifference will kill you. To which, of course, she shrugged. Often she dreams of the cenote. In her dreams she can breathe underwater without mask or regulator. It is like breathing night. And the girls come to her, these girls whose hearts were cut still beating from their breasts, they come to comfort Jenny.

George Michelsen Foy has published 12 novels a couple of non-fiction books. His latest is novel is METTLE, with Univ. Press of New England. He has written for Harper’s, Rolling Stone et al. He teaches fiction at NYU and his flash fiction has been published by Atticus Review, Superstition Review, Journal of Microliterature, among others. He lives in New England and NY.

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