By Stephanie Delano
I’m eight years old, standing on the edge of my family’s dock. The plastic strands of turf rub in between my toes while a breeze blows over my arms and leaves goosebumps in its wake. The marshmallow puffiness of the neon orange life jacket sucking in my guts holds me steady. I watch as the stranger who offered me a ride hooks up the inner tube to the black and pink Jet Ski. Fear and excitement fill me.
“Okay, it’s all set up and ready!” he yells back at me while motioning me over. Hesitantly, I walk toward him. Feeling a soft push on my lower back, I crane my head up to see my mom smiling down at me.
The man sits on the Jet Ski, slightly rocking back and forth on the waves. Off the edge of the dock, I just see darkness. The water is dark green, hiding everything below the surface, and it scares me. My gut seizes, but I know that if I back down, then I’ll be made fun of by the parade of people slowly gathering behind me to watch. I reach my arms out toward the man and he sets me butt first within the plastic ring.
I grab ahold of the side handles for safety and so I don’t completely lose my sanity. The Jet Ski starts to move, and the guy turns around and throws me a large smile with white pearly teeth. Squeezing my hands and legs with all my might, I grind my teeth and hold on.
I suddenly feel a lurch and I’m gliding across the dark shiny surface of the lake. The wind blows on my face and runs through my hair. A couple minutes in, and I’m having the time of my life. Gliding like a bird across the surface, I feel invincible. Trees slide past me, and the dock grows smaller and smaller.
Up ahead I see white waves from boats that passed us earlier. We head toward the waves and that pit in my stomach grows even bigger. My grip tightens as we speed up toward the waves. We hit the first one, and the inner tube catches air and lands with a thud back onto the water. A scream leaves my lips but is overpowered by the roar of the Jet Ski engine and the sound of the waves hitting the plastic ring. I jostle over a few tinier waves and then it’s calm once more.
We weave around boats and search for more excitement up ahead. Then there it is, a behemoth of a wave caused by a large speed boat has just drifted in front of us. We hit the wave with a smack. Not only does the inner tube go flying into the air but so does the Jet Ski. The Jet Ski lands perfectly while I fly off the tube and into the darkness of the water.
I’m submerged, holding my breath with all my might. I’m encased by green. Different shades of green. The light seafoam green is above me, the grass green is around me, and below me is the dangerous and scary forest green which houses the unknown.
I swim with everything I have in me to the surface. Breaking through the surface, I look for the Jet Ski. I see it ahead a few paces and swim for my life toward the black and pink blur. Out of breath and energy, I make it to the Jet Ski and try to pull myself up. I don’t have the arm strength and just keep falling and sinking back into the water. Defeat rises up in me, and I think I’m going to die. I flail harder, crying and screaming.
I am about to give up when the guy on the Jet Ski grabs me under the armpits and hauls me onto the seat. I wrap my arms around him, hyperventilating. We speed back toward the dock, but I can’t bring myself to look at anyone.
I hear the roar of laughter from the crowd gathered on the dock. We pull up and someone sets me on the dock. Tears stream down my face and I feel the ridicule seep within me. I walk back toward the camper to shower and wash this feeling away.