I hate the ocean. Always have, and probably always will. It’s not the water part of it that I hate, it’s just what lives in the water that I hate. Mostly sharks and anything with giant teeth. My mom was eaten by a shark. Well, I mean, she wasn’t my mom in the normal sense of the world. Oup! Can’t give too much away, or else someone might figure out my secret. There’s nothing interesting about that story so let's get back to the ocean thing. Like I said, the ocean just kind of skeeves me out, even though Matilda and Shea absolutely love it. Those two always beg me to come down with them, but can’t seem to realize that I’m content with a good book and dry land.
“Come ooon!” Matilda beged. “It’s the nicest day of the year and you want to stay cooped up inside! How do we even share a house?”
“Now, calm down.” Intervened Shea. She’s usually the more levelheaded one around the house. I said usually.”You know exactly why she doesn’t want to go to the beach.”
“Dude, just because a big shark took down your so called mom doesn’t mean that every fish ever is out to get you.” Shea leaned in closer to me.
”Ira, if you don’t want to go we can just find some, I guess, non-water based activity.” She was trying to be nice, but I knew she had really wanted to cream Matilda at beach volleyball today. It was just one of those days.
“No. No I want to go. Swimming sounds fun”, I said in my hesitant and quiet voice. I’ve never seen a more confused look on my friends’ faces.
“You sure?” inquired Matilda in her caring yet snarky voice.
“Yeah. I’m not afraid.”
I was afraid. I thought the twenty minute drive from the house would calm me down, and it kind of did. But seeing the vast stretch of blue that covered the horizon brought it all back. My thoughts of what lurked below, and how I feared that getting eaten by a big fish was just in my DNA. Everything in me was fighting to get back to the boardwalk, where I could focus on stupid games that no one ever won, and not the wall of blue terror that I was now facing head on. But somehow, kind of miraculously, my legs kept walking through the sand. Shea and Matilda had already set up the chairs and umbrella by the time I arrived.
“Woohoo, she’s here. Come on guys, let’s hit the waves!” Matilda ran straight into the surf, her body crashing gracefully with the foam. Shea stayed behind and for the seventh time reminded me that I didn’t have to do anything I didn’t want to. But by that point I just felt like it was too late to turn back. I ran in the direction that Matilda did, laughing hysterically from fear, excitement, or a combination of both. The instant my toes hit the water, the gravity of where I was came rushing back to me. I froze up at the water’s edge, unable to move, speak, or think. That was until Shea snapped me out of the trance by pushing me into an oncoming wave. With my hair now soaking wet, I felt that I had made a big step. But I hadn’t. I was in ankle deep water, where no big shark could touch me. Matilda and now Shea were in up to their waists, and I could see others out even further. There were little kids out deeper than me, a teenage girl who could probably take care of herself. If they're not afraid, then why should I be? The story of my “mother’s” death played in my head again. Plucked from the shore by an aquatic monster. Being dragged under kicking and screaming her terrible, terrible scream.
“Hey lady, you okay?” A boy who was not even 10 had apparently spotted my terror.
“Yeah, yeah I’m fine. Just, the water’s a bit cold today that’s all.” The water was 80? that day.
“Wimp,” The boy said as he ran into the water and tackled his friend. He was right. I was a wimp. But not anymore, I hoped. Slowly, I made my way deeper into the water, always looking down. I saw my feet and shins slowly disappear into the blue depths as I made my way out to Matilda and Shea. They were throwing a mini soccer ball we had brought.
“Hey, look who decided to show up,” said Matilda. “Catch.” Maybe it was because I didn’t move my arms, but the throw came up short and splashed me right in the face. Matilda was laughing hysterically and Shea was trying to keep it to a giggle, but eventually burst into laughter as well. If this had happened a day before, I would just sit there in silence pouting because my friends were making fun of my mistake, but I think something in the water changed me that day. I started laughing like my friends, and soon there were three howling teens in the ocean. I had finally recognized the comedic value of my errors and that they really aren't making fun of me, just that sometimes I mess up and it’s hilarious. For a moment I felt on top of the world. Then, as they say in Les Miserables, “it all went wrong.”
“Hey wimp.” It was the kid again. Despite his small stature, he managed to get out deep enough to talk to us.
“If he’s talking to me he’s dead,” I heard Matilda say.
“Not you toot’s, your friend with the weird hair. Why is it white?”
“Toots! That’s it!” lashed Matilda.
“Who says ‘toots’ any more?” Inquired Shea. Matilda began to charge at the boy, but fortunately for him, Shea was close by and grabbed her shoulder in a seemingly successful attempt to calm her down.
“Even if you made it this far, you’re still a wimp.” the kid began again. “You’ll always be a wimp. Heck, you even look like one with your pale skin and off color hair. Wimpy, wimpy lady.” I tried not to lose my temper, because when that happens, let's just say bad things happen. My secret could get out and somebody could get really hurt. Normally I don’t let trivial things like name calling get to me too much, but there was something about today. Here comes this little brat waltzing in to ruin my first fun day in the ocean. I was gonna give it to him.
The next thing I knew I woke up under our umbrella, but here’s what Shea told me happened. So apparently I lost my temper and went charging at the kid, my sharp nails ready to tear him up. Matilda ran after me in an attempt to stop me, and managed to grab my arm. I turned around and she ended up with a scratched up left arm. It seemed that once I realized I hurt her and not that stupid kid that I felt sorry, sort of calmed down, and passed out. My friends carried me to the shore and told the kid he got lucky, but he just swam away saying “Wimp.” And then I woke up, forgetting the entire ordeal.
“Guys, I’m so sorry I lost my temper and that you have to deal with me. I should just go.”
“Are you kidding? We know how hard you work to stay calm and I’m totally fine. A few band aids from the lifeguard tower fixed me right up. And besides, that kid kind of deserved what you were packing, for ruining our fun day.” Shea and I giggled, probably because we all felt the same way.
“And here’s something else.” Matilda continued. “So apparently there was a blacktip in the water, you know, those little sharks. It passed by the kid and didn’t bite him, just kind of swam up to him and skimmed against his leg. That little twerp ran back to shore screaming ‘Mommy! Mommy help a shark got me! My leg’s gone!’ Hahaha. Guess we know who the real wimp is, huh?”
I was back in the car in record time.