The promise of adventure drew me to the water that night. I loved swimming and mom and dad never let me swim at night…especially without them! That night would be my chance to have some real fun! Still, a little voice inside pleaded, “No! It’s not safe. ” I listened for a moment and then pushed it away, determined to take advantage of a rare opportunity. But like all who venture into the exhilaration of the darkness, I had to come face to face with my fears.
When the gate slammed shut behind me, metal clanging and clicking into the locked position, I felt the ambivalence of fear and excitement. I moved my toes out of my jelly shoes and onto the cold tile edge and gazed into the memorizing glow of the deep blue. The yellow hue of the street lamps and the deeper color of the pool in the shade of night was excitingly new but I realized how different the familiar pool looked without the piercing rays of sunshine revealing everything within it. Tonight, it looked… eerie. Scary.
A familiar voice behind me asked, “Well? Are you going in or not?”
“I just want to get my feet wet first,” I lied, pasting on my fake fearless-smile. So I stepped down into the cool water, grasping the icy steel pole for assurance and aware of the chill that ran up my spine. I paused to watch the deep end suspiciously. The shadows under the surface seemed too dark. Even while squinting, my eyes could not focus. The dim light was washed in waves before it could show me what was really under the water’s surface.
The voice behind me laughed. “You sure are taking a long time. What are you scared of?” Well, for one, there’s Jaws! As I looked into the deep end I thought, surely a shark could fit in here? Maybe even come through those dark, creepy, giant drains?
“Well?” the voice urged. “You wanted to come out here. Jump in!” He was right. I did say yes when he asked. And since he was the whole reason I was allowed to come, I felt obligated to show my gratitude by pressing on. So I took another step down into the water, sending more ripples into the layers of blue and gray around me.
With my eyes fixed on the deep end, I waited. Was that a gray fin I just saw under water? The drums of the Jaws theme matched the beating of my heart and I was no longer sure I was safe. The thrill of the unknown cover of night wore off and I longed for the warmth of the day. But just when I thought it was time to run home, the voice behind me said, “You can’t chicken now. Keep going!”
So I took another step, waist deep and listened to the silence of night. I was used to the loudness of the pool: people laughing, other kids screaming, splashing and music. Now, it was way past my bedtime and silent everywhere. I could only hear the sound of the water swishing lightly in and out of the drain and oddly, I felt alone.
“Well?” He urged again. I looked at him behind me, in the warm, well lit, shallow end. He seemed to want what I wanted: an adventure. He was here to help me and I didn’t want to disappoint him. I decided to trust him with my fears by asking the question, “Can sharks get in the pool?”
I knew it sounded stupid as soon as I said it. Yet he chuckled reassuringly and consoled, “No. It’s okay. Jaws can’t possibly fit in here! Don’t worry. You don’t’ have to if you don’t want to. It’s always safe over here on my end.” He motioned to the area next to him.
How silly I felt. Silly, scared little girl! I looked back into the dancing shadows of water…fixed on the round yellow light that marked the deepest, farthest end of the pool. Just go for it, I thought. Claim your adventure and jump in! I let my feet leave the step and started to swim out, keeping an eye on my feet beneath. But the more I moved, the more the shadows seemed to take on a life of their own and I become convinced I was no longer alone under cloak of darkness. The thrill of the adventure died under the grip of fear and I needed refuge.
I swam quickly out and turned to the safety of the shallows, where the light seemed a bit brighter and the water a little warmer. But, to my dismay, safety was the mirage for the true danger of the shark was waiting in the shallow end all along. And I was his silly little prey.
9 year old girl