Love can make us do marvelous things. We break boundaries for it, and endure huge pains we wouldn’t manage to stand otherwise. Love can make us become traitors, rebels, enemies of society and even martyrs. But in most cases, love turns us into complete idiots.
I concluded this saying while putting on my swimming fins, as I watched Marta doing the same on the other side of the boat. We were not alone, unfortunately. The small vessel was full of our friends, laughing and smiling, completely unaware of my romantic feelings for a charming red head.
In the entire group, only I thought scuba diving was a bad idea for the team building excursion. When I heard we’d actually visit an underwater shipwreck, I was even more against such a perilous activity. Of course, until the moment Marta proclaimed it to be a delightful idea. I suddenly became a ferocious supporter of the scuba diving excursion, and actually read two books on the subject before attending the dive. I hoped to look like a professional diver, or at least not to look like a wimp.
After passing a scuba diving course, our guide brought us to the actual site of the excursion. On the surface, it was nothing special. Just clean Adriatic Sea surrounding us, with Istrian shore on the horizon. But supposedly under the waves, one could find Baron Gautsch, an Austro-Hungarian transport ship turned into a military vessel during the First World War. As many of its metal peers, it actually managed to hit a mine left by his own side in the conflict, and has sunk almost momentarily. It didn’t sound like a ship which wants to be visited by divers a century after. But once I heard the call to jump in the water, I immediately did so. I practiced that leap on my sofa, and I actually looked cool while performing it. However, Marta’s head was turned the other way while I splashed into the water.
The moment I found myself beneath the surface, a wave of panic struck my body. There were hundreds of bubbles around me, each somehow managing to tickle me, despite the swimming suit. I also couldn’t say whether I was ascending or descending in the water. I instinctively tried to go up, but knowing how much gear I had on myself, it was difficult to fight the impression that I am actually going bottom-wise.
Office friends followed me, emerging in their own swarms of bubbles. Finally, Marta jumped in as well, forcing me to look like I know what I’m doing. Our guide, gently hovering like a good-hearted dolphin, waved his hand and invited us to go deeper. Everybody went after him, joy and happiness clearly visible from their playful moves. Unfortunately, our surroundings were not that clear.
But to me, who foolishly believed one can see for kilometers under water, it seemed horrid not to see at least the bottom beneath. I immediately imagined all kinds of sea monsters dwelling in these unknown depths. How far was I from that enthusiastic hero who I envisioned only a day before, who’d fought giant sharks and gigantic octopuses in order to save Marta. And even some of the less-annoying colleagues.
At one moment, I was fed up. Yes, I was in love with Marta ever since she smiled at me after I repaired her photocopying machine. But oxygen tanks and plastic fins are not photocopying machines, just as this less-than-pleasantly-fresh Adriatic is not a company office. The whole trip was a mistake, and a big one at that. Instead of looking like a great guy in front of Marta, I was about to be devoured by a three-headed underwater menace hiding somewhere in this dark realm. Or so I thought.
Than, Baron Gautsch suddenly appeared beneath. And instead of frightening me even more, the huge ship actually filled me with awe and amazement.
During the first few minutes, she seemed like a huge, gigantic vessel. She was not, at least not when compared to larger ships of modern times. But there, sleeping quietly in its underwater tomb, she looked like a castle full of magic and mystery, patiently waiting to reveal its secrets to anyone willing to greet it under waves.
The schools of fish would gently pass through the holes in its structure, and vegetation enveloped it as a robe of an old, fable-telling, grandfather. At that moment, I was so immersed in the experience that I didn’t think of Marta for the entire minute. And when our oxygen levels dropped to a safe level, I was already calculating my budget for how to return to this magical place.
Long after I returned to the shore, I was under impression of the ghost ship and her century-old sleep in the aquatic realm. It was something that truly enriched my life experience and made me passionate about scuba diving the Adriatic.
Several years have passed, turning Marta in a nice looking friend who, hopefully, never realized my feelings. We even went to the cinema once, and I felt only mild excitement during our get-together. Other women took her place in my heart, but unlike scuba diving, they also found a way out of it. Every year, I afford at least a few dives to places I have never explored before. I have also become an instructor for diving, and now teach people how not to look like a bubble-surrounded idiot after they splash in the water.
But I never forget Baron and the way it appeared beneath my swimming fins. And the ship offers me a similar experience every time I visit it under the crystal sea of Istria.