ILA Period 8
February 1, 2018
Hide and Reef
IT was chasing me. I couldn’t believe the size of the creature underneath me. Looking out of the water, I couldn’t spot my family in the “middle of nowhere” part of the ocean. I didn’t know what to do. Should I keep swimming away from it? Should I stop, turn around, and go back to the boat? Questions raced through my mind. I looked down, and there it was again…
It was a hot day in St. John. As a kid, which I still am, St. John, and more specifically Caneel Bay, was our “Christmas Getaway” island. It was a small island in the Caribbean, and we had to travel about four hours to get there.
When we arrived, a potent smell of delicious food and salty sea greeted you. The palm trees danced in the gentle breeze. Little kids screamed as they played on the beach, and the sound of the waves crashing onto the sand was somewhat soothing.When you looked into the water from the dock, you could see millions of different fish. St. John had donkeys and iguanas, and my hometown, Easton, had dogs, cats, and snow. Being a warm tropical island, St. John had the best snorkeling. And it also had the best sunsets, swimming, weather, and food.
One year, when I was maybe ten, we went on a snorkeling trip around the Caribbean. Mom, Dad, my grandparents, and my sisters, Sydney and Lillian, and I were all very excited to see turtles, fish, and more galore.
It was the morning before we left. We were waiting at a small, casual, outdoor cafe, enjoying freshly baked blueberry muffins. Mine was blueberry with little grains of sugar on top, and it was SO delicious.
“I can’t wait to go!” I heard Sydney say. “Maybe we’ll see a stingray or a turtle, or…..Oh My God!!! What if we see a squid?!?” She squealed, then began to dance around, clapping her hands together.
“Relax my dad said,” barely looking up from his phone.
“Mom! Can Dad and I go past the reef? Do you think we will see a shark? You should call me Squidney if we see a squid. Do you get it? Cause my name is Sydney and squids are super cool, so we should put them together and get Squidney. Wait- even if we don’t see a squid, you should call me Squidney, okay?” She sat back down with our mom, and all you could hear was the excitement in their voices as they talked.
As they were talking, I walked down to the beach, looking at the dock, hoping more than anything that our boat was here. And then I saw it.
I ran back up to the terrace, my curly blonde hair flying in the wind behind me. “Mom! Dad! The boat! It’s here!” I was so excited. “Can we go can we go? Please?”
After what seemed like ages, but was actually 30 seconds, we got up and walked down to the dock. Well, most of us. My sisters and I ran, our bodies jittering with excitement. There, waiting for us was a boat called ‘Cloud 9’ and it was the biggest sailboat I had ever seen. The captain came out and greeted us. “Hi, guys! You can call me Captain Jason, and I’ll help you with everything you’ll need on deck today”. After the endless adult conversation was over, we were told to take off our shoes and then we were finally allowed to get on the boat.
We went from one popular snorkeling place to another, seeing all different types of cool fish, like stingrays and other small tropical fish. Under the water, the sea was a shimmering shade of sky blue. I loved it. I loved it when I was surrounded by all of these fish, in their home. It felt like I could just stay there forever, watching as they swam around. The reef was like a mall– busy and bumbling with activity. My favorite fish were the long rainbow-finned ones, but I also liked the ones that looked like Nemo and the little orange ones that popped their heads out of the sand, flinging big bubbles to the surface. They seemed cool. The fish were all so diverse, and none of them looked at all the same. Some were rainbow-scaled and full of brilliant colors and others were dark, gray, and gloomy.
When we reached our final destination, I was relieved. Sure, the boat was nice. Really nice, but it was too hot and the music was playing too loudly. I scrambled to the gear, racing to get it on. The Caneel Bay Gear fit perfectly, and in minutes we were all in the water, most of us jumping in with a splash. We broke up into groups of two or three, and I went with my mom. Excited to see more fish, I swam right over to the reef, hoping to see something new; maybe another stingray, or even an octopus. Yeah, I guess the chance of seeing an octopus was pretty extreme. Right?
We were at the edge of a very little Carribean island, but it made you feel like you were in the middle of nowhere. The water around us looked like it was 10 feet deep, at least. It clashed against the near rocks, making the water waiver. The rocks were bigger than me, and on them, I saw the yucky mustard-looking fire coral. My back was above the water, and the scorching sun was beaming on it. When we looked down, you could see every color imagined. Red coral, orange fish, yellow fire coral, green plants, bright blue water, and purple rainbow fish. I was so happy that I wasn’t back at home, where it was negative ten degrees Fahrenheit and snowing. My mom kicked nearby, the sound echoing in my ears. Accidentally opening my mouth, in awe of a near turtle, I got a gulp of salt water. A wave crashed over us, filling my snorkel with the same water, making it hard to breathe. Forcefully, I blew hard into my snorkel, the water freely flying out.
I’m not sure when, but I remember seeing another turtle, and from there, well it turned into a snorkeling trip like no other. In a blink, the turtle scurried away. All of the sudden thought, and for some reason it freaked me out. Not sure what to do, I asked my mom to come up out of the water so that we could talk, and seriously started to scare myself. Honestly, I hoped nothing was lurking behind a big rock or something. However, I didn’t understand how the turtle just could have innocently swam away like it had. When I told my mom what happened, she said that I had probably made a movement that scared it away. I tried to believe her, but I wasn’t sure I could. Just calm down.
Calm down, calm down.
I wanted to go underwater to go look at some more fish. Relieved to escape the thought of something creeping behind me, I began to tell myself to try and look underwater….
The second I went under, I saw two fish bigger than a boat swimming towards me. I closed my eyes, not believing what I saw. Looking again, the fish seemed worse every second. My heart quickened. Their enormous evil eyes gave me a look of death, and it’s face looked like an old wrinkly sponge.
I pulled out of the water, freaking out. I started screaming in fear. “ Mom?! MOM!” I tapped her back. She clearly wasn’t seeing the two whale-sized fish. She finally came up and gave me a quirky look.
“ What? Is something wrong? Are you okay? Don’t tell me that you want to go in already. We just off the boat.”
Realizing that I probably really freaked her out by all of my screaming, I told her her what happened, but was trying to stay sane at the same time. “No, I guess not, but look.” I went underwater to show her the fish.
“Yeah? What about them?”
“Well…..I mean. Those–those fish are like TOTALLY freaky.” I was freaking out. It felt like my heartbeat was coming from my throat. Nothing made sense anymore. All I knew was that I had to get away from those “fish” as soon as possible.
Thinking that it was going to eat me(yeah right), I began to swim away as fast as I could. While I swam, all I could hear was the splash and bang of the water crashing against the side of the rocks. As I took a quick glance underwater, I realized that I was STILL being followed. I was worried, wondering where my mom had gone. I hated the thought of swimming alone in the Caribbean, especially after a fish THAT big was lurking behind me. When I was younger, I always thought these waters were really safe. Turns out that I was wrong. When I finally found my mom, with Sydney and my dad, I was so relieved. Reluctant, I immediately swam towards them.
When I reached them, I finally had the chance to catch my breath. “Can we go back to the boat? Please?” I asked. I wanted more than to stop swimming.
“Amber! You’re being ridiculous! It’s the ocean. Of course you are going to find things that you aren’t necessarily comfortable with, not just today with the tarpon, but in life as well.” My mom replied.
“Yes, but well….”
“Seriously Amber? I’m younger than you, but I think that they are cool. I mean, they’re like the biggest creature I’ve ever seen. Well, in the ocean… But still! Amber’s a scaredy cat.” Sydney laughed at what she said like it was the funniest thing ever.
“STOP! Please!” My body was filling with feelings. Not only was my seven-year-old sister making fun of me, but also the fact that these waters aren’t all that splendid. “They’re not that scary…” I started. But to me, they were, and I didn’t know how to say that.
“Nonsense,” my dad spoke confidently.“ They aren’t scary to us, but they are to you, and that’s okay. So, you are scared of them. You swam away from them faster than I’ve ever seen you swim.”
“Yeah! Just get over this ridiculous fear. Come on, all four of us can go together, and we’re going to follow that fish around, if we can find one.” Mom added.
As she said that, the water around us seemed to become waiver. “Fine! I guess you’re right. I am scared of them, but it doesn’t mean that I want to follow THEM around. But if that’s what you want to do, even though you’re out of your minds, then that’s what we’ll do.” My voice quivered as I said it. It may have been my imagination, but everything seemed sounded more awake. The wind whistled through my ears. The water we were floating in was cold to the touch. And then, it all happened again. We began to snorkel around, slowly, and I hung onto my mom’s hand. Not wanting to be there, I tried to distract myself. The fish, tiny and beautiful, that had been in this area earlier had relaxed, slowly swimming around. The whole reef seemed dead, nothing was energetic or upbeat. Hoping something would come up, I went swimming in a new direction. This time, the water was admirable, active, and alive.
I slowly swam around, not sure whether or not we would actually see the fish. I breathed, realizing that I could be in a lot worse of a situation and that I was also surrounded by my family. And that this stupid tarpon couldn’t actually eat me. And that’s when I saw it. My googles outlined the shape like it had before. It came from the corner, and then all of the sudden it was all you could see. But this time, it looked like a blown-up version of one of the other smaller dark, gray, and gloomy fish, with an ugly face.
This time, I realized that it was indeed a stupid fear. This fish wasn’t THAT bad. My heart rate soon returned to normal and I began to feel more comfortable in the environment that held mystery no matter what. But so does life. I guess that we need to be more welcome with new people and new ideas. And you can’t forget about certain scary fish.