I am not so sure that I should have gotten unlimited text messaging on my cell phone. I have stopped talking to people directly, and I have started texting no matter what the circumstance is. The upside of this is twofold: One, if I am hearing my friend’s voices, it is because I am with them, and I always hated the disembodied voices that accompanied cell phones. Two, I think text message alert sounds are much less annoying than cell phones ringing.

The disadvantage, as a diving instructor and SNUBA employee, sometimes I send out text messages and won’t get answers until much later – apparently cell phone companies don’t think it’s important to provide service to people who are out in the Pacific.

It’s a strange little dance that I play these days, texting with wet fingers on my waterproof phone, conversing with friends and family in the little pockets of service that appear randomly amongst the waves, while my crew of Hawaiian tourists look at the multi-colored fish and I check gauges on their air pressure.
A SNUBA raft is a lot like a reverse grove of Aspens. The air supply is kept on the surface, so everyone is anchored, just like how a grove of Aspen trees is actually one single organism, since each of the trees share a root system. I love helping six people share one mechanical lung.

I explain it like that before we go out: You all are my trees.

They don’t get it and I don’t care to explain and usually I have a text to answer anyway, so after I tell them that they are going to share a lung, and then that they are like a grove of trees, usually I leave them to wetsuit up and start tapping on my bulky phone to my girlfriend or my mom.

I have seven people on my raft today, and I am taking them out to a part off the coast of Hilo where there are supposedly lots of sea turtles. This crew is pretty experienced, so I don’t need to go down with them like I have to sometimes. Some people keep coming back to SNUBA, even though they should really graduate to SCUBA. Stop sharing a lung, I want to tell them. You’re not an Aspen, you’re a weeping willow.

I told a woman with long hair that the other week and she told me I was weird.

The texts I sent after they first went down:

to Mom: Happy Birthday! You’re not old, ma!

to Danny: Beers later, compadre?

to my girlfriend: Miss you, sweet pumpkin pie.

I can’t remember when I started to call my girlfriend sweet pumpkin pie, but she hates it. She really does. I think it’s the type of hate that borders on love though, and I am wondering if I should ask to marry her with a ring in her piece of pumpkin pie this Thanksgiving. I look up at the sky and think about how the sky is just a waterless ocean, and how I hate it when they match in color because then I just feel like I’m lost in an artist’s start to a painting.

I text that to Luis, who would think that was poetic.

All the texts wait in my outbox, a little army of messages that would send when we reached a pocket of service, so instead of looking at my phone or looking at the sky, I look at the gauges and notice that the younger woman is using a lot more oxygen than everyone else, so I put on my goggles and look down and see that she is face to face with a sea turtle. Good for her, I think.

My grandfather looked like a turtle, when you get down to it. He had those glazed over eyes too, and I think that’s how he lived to be 110, he just stopped seeing everything. My mom blamed it on the war, his glazed over expression, but I think it was all the refined sugar he put in his coffee. How else would his eyes get so glazed?

Utah has the largest aspen grove in the world – it’s named Pando, which means “I spread” in latin, and it might be the oldest living organism on Earth. I slowly move the SNUBA-ers to a different spot, thinking about what would happen if we could move Pando, maybe into a museum or something, because I don’t think people should go there whole lives without seeing Pando, and people don’t really go to Utah just for fun.

Suddenly my phone flurries with text messages sent and received.

text from Lyle: Cmng 2 the big island this Summer! Still got a couch 4me?

text from my girlfriend: We need to talk about some things.

text from Cindy: U R so bad at txting me back!

I look at the gauges for a second and it looks fine, and then I start texting back as much as I can, especially to my girlfriend. I don’t need to text Lyle or Cindy, especially because both of them used texting language, and I hate that.

to her: Talk about what?

from her: Us. Let’s not do this over text.

A tourist guy surfaces and talks to me but he’s mostly unintelligible because the waves are pretty big. I didn’t notice. I need to get everyone ashore, but before I pull on their lines, I fire off a text to my girlfriend that says: Texting is just as good as talking sometimes. and then I look at the gauges and see that no one is using any air.

I stick my head down and see that I don’t have a single person attached to my root system. I put on my gear and go down to look for them while the guy who survived climbs onto the SNUBA raft and all I see are bubbles.

My grove. Someone cut down my grove.

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