In Mexico, at 16, I went on a night dive with my brother. The darkness made me disoriented. It was hard to keep a steady buoyancy. It was hard also not to panic—all that water and all that blackness, stretching out on either side of you like something physical, a tangible barrier, a weight. My brother kept his hand on my back and held me down into the sand of the bottom. Otherwise I would have floated up, floated away.
I don’t remember if he told me beforehand about the phytoplankton, but I remember him putting a hand in front of my mask and agitating the water. Everything lit up instantly—a wave of small green lights blinking on and off like miniature fireflies. The water glowed. The ocean sparkled.
That was my first encounter with bioluminescence, other than the mundane lightning bugs we used to capture in jars and hold in our hands. This was something different—something surreal, otherworldly. This was something I’d never imagined before. I’d never heard of it before. It was sunshine, underwater, in the middle of the night. It was beautiful.
This weekend’s aftermath is the desire to stay in bed. Three concerts in three nights (The Naked and Famous at The Wiltern, Vampire Weekend and The xx at the Hollywood Bowl) has left me tired and lethargic. But it was maybe the nicest weekend I’ve spent in LA yet. There was no time to myself except a few hours Sunday to make a sandwich and try to nap. There was no writing, no sleep-ins, no quiet.
But it was nice. After Vampire Weekend on Saturday we drove back to Santa Monica, met up with friends and walked miles up and down the coast to see the glowing art installations. I got sand in my boots, sand in my socks, sand in my hair.
There was a giant net in the middle of the beach. It was the biggest, brightest thing, and so we made our way to it. Halfway there, we ran into a little pool of water. A wishing well, the girl called it. Toss in a coin and see what happens.
We all took turns. I handed out pennies and we dropped them in gently or launched them from our hands with a sudden burst of force.
Every time the zinc hit the water (pennies now are 97.5% zinc, 2.5% copper), a trail of green phytoplankton lit up the well. It was the first time I’d seen it since I was sixteen. It was just as strange, just as pretty.
We got thirty seconds before the next group was let in and we had to see ourselves out. Just thirty seconds, which wasn’t really a long time—but enough to become sixteen again, to feel weightless, to hold S’s hand so I wouldn’t lose my grip on the bottom and float float float away.