Under The Sea (Part 1)

Michael got certified to scuba dive at age 13. Over the course of his next thirty-three years, he dove in much of the Caribbean–initially on family vacations and later on vacations with various girlfriends. By the time he was 46, Michael had been on a Caribbean vacation with every woman he’d ever dated. Then he met me. He figured I would be no exception. But I’ve never been one to follow in the path of those before me. . .

On our second date, Michael asked, “Have you ever been scuba diving?” I tried to hold back a laugh. “Uh. No.”

“Why not?”

“Um. Well . . . ” Then my words tumbled out in hurry. “My biggest fear is being stuck under water, being able to see the surface, and not being able to reach it. Soooo. . . ” I took a deep breath. “I don’t really think scuba diving is for me.” What I was really thinking was No way in hell could you get me to do that!

Michael was undeterred. “Oh, you’d love it.”

This man hardly knows me–how can he know I’d love it?

“What makes you say that?” I asked politely. It was only our second date. I liked this guy. This is what the first weeks of dating are: getting to know each other’s interests, pretending you’re interested, taking home what you learn, sharing it with your girlfriends, figuring out if you could continue to date someone who loves opera/plays the trumpet/wants to take you scuba diving. Or, in Michael’s case, all of the above.

Michael continued. “It’s so peaceful down there. You have to go slow. You physically can’t move quickly. You’re just moving along with the fish, the only sound is air from your tank. No one can talk to each other. . .”

“It sounds meditative,” I said to him. I like meditative. We can bond over that. He can meditate underwater. I can meditate under a palm tree.

“We’ll have to go sometime,” he said.

I changed the subject.

Over the next seven years Michael and I went on (non-Caribbean) vacations, got engaged, bought a house, got married. But in that time neither Michael nor I had gone scuba diving.

And then, in the middle of January, quite abruptly, we decided to go to Barbados. Two weeks later, Michael was gone. Three weeks later, I followed him. I remember Michael laying on a beach chair in only his swimsuit while I was talking to newfound friends. “I think this is the first time in our relationship that I’ve ever seen Michael tanning,” I said to them. A few days later we waded into the ocean together. Another first.

“We can get you certified while you’re here!” Michael exclaimed one day.

“Uh. . . I don’t think I’m ready for that, hon,” I said.

“Well let’s start with snorkeling. You’ve done that before, right?”

“Nope.”

“You’ve never snorkeled?”

“Michael. I never learned how to go under water without holding my nose. So no, the idea of holding my face underwater for any length of time has never interested me.”

“Oh. You just need a full face mask. I brought one of those with me.” Lucky me.

I still like this man I chose to marry. I like to make him happy. So I went with it. I tried his mask. His snorkel. We were in a pool. It was okay.

“Let’s go get you a mask that fits,” he told me. He had researched gear shops before I’d arrived. “We’ll go to Hazel’s.”

John Hazel was a kind and patient man. Michael and he talked “shop” and I tried to keep up. Michael said something about water going down the snorkeling tube into your mouth and how you just had to blow it out. “Oh, she doesn’t need to do that. They don’t make them like that anymore,” John said. He turned to me and explained the mechanism by which today’s snorkels recirculated any water that got in without me having to do anything. All I understood was that, if I could keep this plastic thing in my mouth and the mask over my nose, it was entirely possible and, in fact, highly likely that my facial airways would never feel water. Things were looking up.

Oh. But then there’s this thing I have about swimming in the ocean. I don’t do it. There are currents. Rip tides. I wade. I float. But swim? Past where the waves break? Not so much. Hardly ever.

But that didn’t stop Michael. Within minutes of buying my first ever snorkeling gear, we were in the Caribbean testing it out. I held his hand the entire time worried I’d get too far from him and swept out to sea never to be seen again.

But I did it. Michael was thrilled. I was . . . relieved. Relieved I’d succeeded. Happy I’d seen a few things. But mostly happy I’d made Michael happy. “Tomorrow we’ll go to Folkstone beach and snorkel there!” he said. Again? So soon?

After two more rounds of snorkeling I was ready. “I don’t want to get certified, though. I don’t even know if I’ll like it. Do they have a ‘Just try it out’ kind of course?” I asked.

“They do! It’s called Discover Scuba. They show you the basics and take you out for a dive.”

“That’s it. That’s all I want to do right now.” Michael signed me up. It was official. I was now going to be just like every other woman he’d dated. Well, at least in one way. . .

Holding Michael’s hand the whole time . . .
Okay. . . I got this. I think.
Relief! I did it! (Is it safe to take the snorkel out of my mouth now?)

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