Oxygen - a memoir by William Trubridge
The following is an excerpt from my autobiography, published in 2017.
I’m not William Trubridge. I’m not an ‘I am’. There exists only a point of awareness, wakefulness, seemingly contingent on the body of a human man, drifting downwards into thin ink. The heart of that falling body beats slowly, shuffling thickened blood past the dormant brain. With each beat the body sinks another length away from the surface, away from the sun, away from the air. Inside there is awareness — but there is no content to the awareness, like a camera filming in darkness.
Meanwhile, something is taking place. An unassisted breath- hold dive to a depth no human being has ever been to. A world- record attempt. Many people — in the water, on the surface, in front of televisions and internet feeds at home or at work — are completely engrossed in the timeline of this dive. So, arguably, is the subconscious mind — the autopilot — of the man attempting the record. But the shard of consciousness that is all that is left of him, of me, is unshackled, formless, empty.
Such detachment from identity and locality is actually necessary for my own survival. If I’m to swim to 102 metres below the surface of the sea and return by the same route, I don’t have enough air to take the chattering monkey that lives in my head along for the ride. An alarm from the depth gauge on my wrist sounds, sending a signal to the autopilot, which orders a subtle change in my position to ready my body for a turn. The rope in front of me changes pattern and texture; my left hand grips it, my right arm extends and its hand closes around a piece of material — a tag attached loosely to a round plate. The surface of the plate is exactly 102 metres below the surface of the ocean. I have the tag to prove that I’ve been there.
Now I just have to make it back up.