By J.B. Stone
Your dad won a contest at work for a “free-paid” vacation at some fancy resort in the Bahamas. The timing is perfect because winter approaches, and seasonal affective disorder sucks, and all you want is enough vitamin D in your system that your body is more sunlight than flesh.
Once you land from JFK and settle in with your dad, along with your two sisters in the room next door, you’re more excited about the fact there is an itinerary than what those things listed on it might be.
Your dad talks about swimming with sharks. A rare gleam of child-like joy shoe shines his face.
Suddenly, the flamingo pink skin coated across the walls of your hotel suite turns turquoise blue and the room slowly matches a shallow end’s hue. The sunshine back-boards from the bay window, the murky light gleaming through the walls. You never thought trauma would find its way inside this swanky room.
You still remember the first time you saw a shark at the Baltimore aquarium—how it tackled the glass—how determined it was to break down the barrier between the two of you. You’re still left sleepless by how much worse it would have been if you both were in the same waters.
Why the hell would anyone want to swim with sharks?
You never tell your dad about these fears. You scoff at the idea about punching a shark in its snout as a means of scaring off its rage. Or the idea you’re more likely to be injured by a deer in North America than a shark in the shallow waters of the Caribbean. Dad’s smile is rare. The fear of disappointing him is the only fear you have that’s greater than getting mauled by a shark. It’s the only thing keeping your shaky legs from booking.
The next day, you both arrive at the shores of a remote lagoon. Palm leaves sway against the tangerine timber, and the glitter of sunlight reflects on the watery horizon. You do not expect this scenery to be one of nightmares, but here you are: a hurricane waiting to happen. The local tour guide says you are set for an hour of swimming and snorkeling with sharks. You take a deep breath, let the tide hit you, adjust your senses to the ocean salt, and hope for the best.
Your dad holds your hand and says it’ll be alright, trust me. He doesn’t say this as often as he should. He isn’t always this gentle, but that just makes it clear that he’s trying.
At this point, you could be a bucket of chum misting blood across the reef, salivating with the carnal lust of a hungry shark, and still feel invincible.