We have a beach in our town on a lake that’s free to city residents, so we hit that baby a few times during the summer. I’m not a huge fan of swimming in water that isn’t full of chlorine. I don’t like fish nudging me and seeing crap floating around on the surface, like oil from the boats. But I go anyway because my kids love it and it’s free.
When I was a kid growing up in Virginia, we used to go to the beach in Ocean City, Maryland every summer. I spent most of my time avoiding the ubiquitous jellyfish, scanning the horizon for sharks, or mistaking every shell on the ocean floor for a crab waiting to clasp onto my big toe. Usually, this meant sitting atop my canvas raft waiting as the jellyfish floated past or sent me tumbling over the waves toward the shore for smooth sand.
One weekend when I was 10 years old my dad took me to a beach in Maryland on the Chesapeake Bay. The water on the bay is calm, like a lake, nothing like the roaring waves at Ocean City.
As soon as we got to the beach I snatched the raft from my dad and ran to the water, leapt in the air, and crashed onto the raft, stomach first. Immediately, the raft shot out from under me like a bean squeezed from a pod. I fought the raft; I jumped on it over and over as it repeatedly shot out from under me. I finally tamed the wild beast and straddled it like a horse.
I paddled my little arms like a windmill as I tried to keep my balance, while moving farther from the shore. I wanted to go as far as the boundary rope that blocked the swim zone off from the rest of the bay. That’s what cool kids did. Which meant I needed to get there.
As I ferociously paddled toward my destination, I approached a group of adults. They were laughing and acting silly. Some of the women were on the men’s shoulders, as if they were going to play a game of Chicken. I ignored them and continued on, arms pumping toward the boundary rope.
As I passed, I heard one of the women on the man’s shoulders laughing really hard. I turned to look and when I did, I was surprised to see the woman lean over and spew a fountain of pink, chunky liquid from her mouth right into the bay. She wiped her mouth with her arm, sat up straight, tilted her head back and laughed. And so did everyone with her.
I was suddenly paralyzed on my raft, arms unable to move. She just puked in the swim zone. She may as well have thrown up in my bathtub because I was convinced that that throw up was going to contaminate either me, or my raft. In my head, I screamed, “What is wrong with you people? Who in their right mind would laugh at throwing up? An animal just clawed its way out of your stomach…and your butt cheeks weren’t even clenched. You probably just pooped your pants.”
I jumped off the raft and started running in the water straight for the sand. The water pulled at my legs like I was running in honey. And that throw-up was drifting closer! I looked back to the pink puddle and fought even harder to move toward shore. I finally reached a place where the water was just above my knees. I picked up the raft over my head and high-stepped over the water to get to the beach.
With utter disgust, I threw my raft down and told my dad what happened. I reported that I would not be entering the water again for the remainder of the day. He thought I was overreacting. Clearly, he was under-reacting. I sat on the towel or played in the sand, far from the throw up water, for the rest of the day. I wouldn’t even touch the water to rinse my hands. In fact, we never swam in the bay again.
Every time we went near the Chesapeake Bay I would remind my dad of that laughing throw up woman and all her throw up-loving friends. And I can still picture a jagged film of pink insides floating around the bay like an oil slick.
And that’s why I’m not a fan of swimming in open bodies of water.
So, what are you doing this summer?This post is part of Finish The Sentence Friday.
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