I am the daughter of such diligent women. They dive in the morning and swim in the afternoon, all because oyster-diving and pearl-gathering are already in their blood, in our lineage. I am proud to be one of them and I often wish that I could be as good as my grandmother or my mother. Yet I know I am a bit different from the rest of the women: my hands curl light and this is forbidden, as it is men’s magic.
I realized I could curl light when I was just five. I was playing, as children would be, with my cousins on the beach, next to the shallow tide-pools where the water teemed with tiny sea-creatures. We would go fish and look for little crabs and shrimps living under the rocks. The water of the tide-pools was a delicious cold-warm and we enjoyed ourselves, laughing under the sun, dipping our toes in and watching the shoals of silver fry darting about. Suddenly there was a yell, a frantic shout. Someone had fallen in.
I did what I thought was instinctive. I flung my hands up, in a fending gesture. My head filled with light circles, bright green-blue circles that spun and overlapped like the toy windmills they sell at the village fairs. The next thing I knew, Timas – my cousin- was pulled out from the water with bands of light. He was only three and was in my charge. Out of the water, he looked bedraggled and out of his shell (as my grandmother would say): totally lost and sobbing away. The rest of the children tittered and held back, eying me as if I was a frilly sea-eel crawling out from the depths of the sea. I held Timas to my chest, wondering what I had done.
Oh the scolding I received later, in the privacy of the family hut. First Father is a man who hardly raises his voice. But that day, he did and forbade me to do what I did when I rescued Timas. Mother added her voice in and she expressed her shock and fear at my deed. Young as I was, I knew I had crossed some invisible line and did things I should not be doing. As I sobbed myself to sleep, I heard my parents arguing, with Grandmother providing a calm counterpoint. “You realize that came from your side of the family,” Mother was saying and First Father muttered angrily, “And your side too.” I finally fell asleep and slipped into dreams of spinning light circles.
It was only after a few days when the storm-tossed atmosphere at the dining table had dissipated and everyone was talking to one another again, when Grandmother drew me aside and spoke me about men’s magic. Men could wield light and curl them into infinite shapes. No one knows why. They just do. They use it to power the silver fish – the little air-filled blimps – and travel to the City to conduct their business. They use it to light the fishing boats at night. They use it in the search of knowledge out of reach for women.
I did not curl light, keeping it a secret, until I reached adolescence. I felt the circles growing brighter and more vivid. I felt them deep within my bones. To deny them was to stop myself from breathing. So, in quiet dank corners, away from the sea and the pearl-oyster pools, I practiced the crafting of light, listening to the circles in my head, and made rings and spirals that revolved in the air, reminding me of the golden sea-kelp forests.
I am the daughter of the sea and a curler of light. I tiptoe between two worlds, both as real and as rich. Within me, the sea is shimmering peridot and the light magic interweaves with it like necklaces of bubbles wrapping themselves around seaweed. Intertwined. Me.