In addition to my ability to return from a beach vacation as pale as when I arrived, I pride myself on my X-ray vision. My polarized, prescription sunglasses make me invincible on the Gulf Coast. When the sun is shining on the emerald Gulf of Mexico, my glasses allow me to see right to the bottom.
“Oooh, needle fish!” I exclaim, pointing. “Swimming in that direction.”
And, again, a little later.
“I see a school of fish with black-tipped, forked tails,” I say to my husband, who doesn’t wear sunglasses when swimming (or standing in water, as the case may be). And thus begins the Q&A in which we determine via my vision and his knowledge the types of fish swimming about us.
The first day of our vacation – after my husband had had the luxury of an hours-long bike ride while I had shopped for groceries to meet his every need and, thus, not exercised – we had gone for a swim. He was preheated; I was thawing after exposure to air conditioning; we did not approach the seawater the same way.
“This is how you do it,” said my dear husband. “One, two, three… “ and he dunked himself into the emerald coolness, surfacing to note that I still was only waist deep.
“You’re being disobedient,” he jokingly nagged. “Come, swim with me to the buoy.”
“Nope,” I said – keeping my two feet down. “I’m Goldilocks, letting the water feel ‘just right’ before I submerge.
“If I submerge,” I continued.
Eventually, I was floating, not standing, and basking in the water Mama Bear and Goldilocks would have deemed “just right.” And so we did make the trek to the buoy that designated the outskirts of the swim zone and had just made our way closer to the shore when I looked back and saw two large, dark shapes gliding underwater toward my husband.
“Look!” I pointed.
Even without X-ray vision sunglasses, my husband could see the dark shapes. We saw no dorsal fins and were intrigued rather than frightened.
“Manatee?” I suggested, though they were moving quite fast.
“Maybe manta rays,” Steve said. “But if they are manatee, we should see their noses surface.”
So intent on watching for the tell-tale noses, we watched, unafraid, as the dark shapes continued their swim past us and down the shoreline – toward a somewhat romantic couple, oblivious of anything but each other.
“Should we warn them?” I asked, clearly too late to play the Good Samaritan.
A family on the shore had noticed the shapes too.
“Sharks!” called the two young boys.
No blood bath followed, the oblivious couple remained so, and we never determined what the creatures were.
The next day, we entered the water again – me slowly, despite my husband’s “one, two, three, dive” edict. I had exercised but still wasn’t preheated enough to crave the chill, and so I stood in waist-deep water, where I could see clearly to the bottom. I watched a crab and a few fish, but mostly conversed with my husband, as I apparently shifted my feet unconsciously on the sandy bottom.
Suddenly, my foot stepped down on the smooth thickness of a stingray’s body.
“Aa-eek-yick!” I yelled (always clear and helpful with my exclamations), as I jumped and hoofed it for the shore before managing a more intelligible, “Stingray!”
Even without X-ray vision, my husband saw the small creature flit out to sea – while he stayed put. I made it to the shore unmolested but there, in no more than ankle-deep water, held vigil for our remaining time, no matter the level of protest from my husband.
“If I get stung, you’ll come and save me, right?” called my husband, as he swam about undaunted.
“But who will save me from the denizens of the deep? I need your X-ray vision.”
Eventually, he joined me on the shore, and we walked toward the pool area.
“Oooh. I hope the stingray didn’t make it to the pool,” he teased.
I knew I was being silly. I had lived in Florida since I was six, shuffling my feet through the warm summer waters, without ever once getting stung.
But I’d never actually felt one with my shuffling feet, either.
And one stingray this chicken did make.
Later that afternoon…
My husband, ever the problem solver, wanted a snorkel and mask to better appreciate the denizens of the deep, and he suggested we purchase a raft of sorts so I could soar above the stingrays instead of shuffling. We did.
The next morning…
I had my husband snap a photo of me with my new float, and then we headed toward the shore. As we arrived, a man and his wife approached us and told us the water was littered with stingrays.
“There’s a whole bunch of them,” the man said. “I stepped on one and felt it flutter against my foot.”
“Were you shuffling?” my husband asked.
“Well, if I wasn’t, I certainly started shuffling,” answered the man. “But that didn’t seem to make them move. Trust me.”
I did, and so I waded knee-deep in the water, content to allow my husband full use of the float while he enjoyed the underwater scenery with his mask and snorkel. I waded, that is, until I saw a stingray swim nearby, and then I hustled, shuffling, from the water. I congregated on the shore with other beachgoers, as they told their stingray sagas.
Eventually, my husband returned with stories of all he’d seen – no stingrays, of course – and he persuaded me to follow in his footsteps. I shuffled behind him, clinging to his suit, until we got about waist deep, when I happened to look to our left and saw not one but three stingrays camouflaged beneath the sand, their pink tails alone giving them away. I quickly shuffled back to the shore, certain that was the end of my swimming adventures for this trip.
My husband, however, ventured forth again, wearing his slides on his feet, contemplating yet another solution for this chicken who is his wife.
When we finally returned to the pool, my husband told me of the next plan. He would wear the slides, shuffling a path, then toss the slides to me, so I could shuffle after him. Then when we were deep enough, I could use the float, keeping me above the stingrays. His reasoning was that I would feel more comfortable shuffling away stingrays if I were wearing shoes…
Sigh. I thought I had X-ray vision, but I did not see this coming.
We are returning to the water for an afternoon swim soon. Yay, me.