August ~ 1978
I'm alone in a Doughboy pool in my grandmother's back yard. I came to visit for the summer. The sun is partially hidden behind some trees. This means part of the pool is in shadow. That is the part I avoid. I know it's silly, but it feels like something is lurking there. I duck beneath the water. I'm wearing goggles. Shadows make the water on the other side of the pool look deep. Too deep.
I can't tell my grandmother that I am afraid. She didn't want to take me to see Jaws 2. I told her that I had already seen the first movie twice. I told her that my mother took me. I didn't tell her about the nightmares, the dark room with the bottomless pool. The teeth.
July ~ 1983
My mother's new boyfriend, Ray, is a surfer. He wants to teach me how to do it. He thinks being afraid of sharks is silly. "You watch too many movies," he says.
He buys me my own board for Christmas. I live in Southern California. Surfing makes sense. I have long blonde hair. I wear Lightening Bolt, Ocean Pacific, and Vans. I don't want to be a poser.
We take the boards to Redondo Beach. The waves aren't too big. I am wearing a wet suit, so the water isn't too cold. I don't have an excuse. I look out at the open ocean and think about how unnatural this is. I am a land based mammal.
Ray paddles out. He calls back to me, waving. That's how it was with the kid on the raft. Fun, splashing, then the quick roll of fins, and the water goes red. As Ray pushes through the break, I keep waiting for him to get pulled under.
I wade into the water, pushing the board in front of me. The sky is gray, overcast. There is no wind. I climb onto the board and paddle towards Ray. I wonder what I look like from underneath.
Ray catches a wave and leaves me floating alone. I turn to watch him. I don't want to look out to sea. I won't look down. The surface of the ocean is black slate. Of course, I make the connection to Quint's description of eyes ~ "lifeless eyes, black eyes, like a doll's eyes." I'm not worried about eyes. The ocean has teeth.
A quick splash sounds behind me. My heart kicks against my chest. Ray is standing in the water close to the shore. I can see something moving through the water. It is only a few feet away from me. I fold my legs up onto the board.
Something breaks to the surface to my right. I pull my arms out of the water so that I am completely on the board. I feel like I'm floating in a mouth. It's ready to close. I turn to see what is moving. It is a seal. It doesn't even look at me before it dives under.
I can hear the blood pulsing. I make my way back to shore. Ray passes me on my way in. "I'm done," I say. I spend the rest of the time waiting in the car.