I was sixteen at the time, and had been on the cruise for a few days with my friend and her family. The cruise was seven days long and we were on day three of the trip of a lifetime. The event took place in the Grand Cayman, home to the largest aggressive sting-rays known to man. We dropped anchor at the dock, then we assembled into a small boat. The small tour boat we took stopped which appeared to be in the middle of the ocean. I was all too eager to strap on my life jacket and dive right in. Before we set foot into the water the instructor warned us about these sea beasts. I know what could happen and I know what to do. I was raised on the water. I reluctantly listened to the windbag. His name was Omar, a native to the waters so it was natural for him to give a little history lesson. I thought to myself, this man is giving his bio when we are suppose to be enjoying the ocean. Once his ended his scripted lecture on safety and his life experience he went into the water. One by one we follow him out into the ocean and swam in the designated area. Not seeing any string-rays at the time I jumped into the soothing tropical waters. I swam away from the boat thinking nothing of my safety, I was greeted by a large fellow ray. I moved out of his way avoiding any uneasiness that could have occurred. I was greeted by more skates eager to find out what I was. Then a thought struck me, it was feeding time but I had no delicious squid to offer them, to my grave dismay they realized this too. I nearly panicked but I remembered what the tour guide said that they will become aggressive if given a reason, and swam slowly away from them. I saw in the east dark, massive clouds charging as a mad bull right toward us, this peaceful weather wasn’t going to last long. Sensing our little escapade of the deep sea was over I went back to my refuge. I wasn’t on the other hand accomplishing my goal on returning back to the boat by avoiding the rays. I swam a bit more hasty not really caring of the creatures that were startled by my movements. I looked at the boat to observe an overweight black woman screaming and crying while on the back of her lean husband. I smirked to myself, black people are so funny no wonder the rays went to them first. I felt sorry for her because she did not like the fact the sting-rays found her amusing, and for her husband who had to carry her back to the water craft. What a scene!!
I was not but five or six yards away from the boat when suddenly I was brought to a jolt by a blood chilling scream behind me. No sooner had I heard it I felt strong arms and legs clasp onto me tightly. To my somewhat relief it was my friend’s younger sister Sara, a petrified pre-teen, trying to escape her fate as sea food. It was only later did I find out what caused her to become so hysterical that day, her brother had thrown squid on her back which got entangled in her bathing suit. Yeah they smelled it on her and she was on me. I tried to calm her nerves, however she clung to me as if her life depended on it. In this case to her it did! Subconsciously she dug her long nails into my flesh, but I managed to proceed to the water craft staggering. Sara screamed and struggled like mad to elude the string-rays as they congregated around us, forcing me to go under. The rays did not appreciate the flailing of her arms nor did I in that matter. Frantically I surfaced for air, the moment I felt the cool air caress my face I took a breath only to have my mouth filled with the bitter fluids I swam in. I toiled against the water with the half-crazed child I bore on my aching back. My limbs cried out for a moment’s rest, despite the fact that Sara pleaded that I swim for the boat. I thought of pitching her off, that thought became a reality, but as I pitched her off my lifejacket went with her. I was the one panicking now. If I don’t get to the boat soon I know I’m done for! Sara realized that her main support was nothing more than a floating object then she leapt on my pained back again more frightened than before. I battled against her as I strived to breathe, but water filled my mouth causing me to gag. The moment I had received enough air, I screamed informing Sara that we were doomed to die if she did not calm down. However if one is experiencing a panic attack listening is not one of the symptoms. No air. No progress. No peace. No way.
The wind picked up rapidly, which caused the waves to become dangerous, threatening to crush us. Unexpectedly I found myself closer to the ocean floor, Sara got flustered nearly knocked me in the head with her kicking feet. Immediately the rays zigzagged past me. I dislocated my left elbow when I hit a large rock, I screamed if one could scream under water. I thrashed my limbs frantically trying to surface, I had had very little air left in my lungs. The salt water burned my eyes, causing my vision to be dimmed. Lightheaded I closed my eyes, only to open them finding myself face to face with a ray. She whipped past me caressing the right side of my face with her tail. I regained some strength only to have Sara return to her perch; unfortunately I could no longer be as persistent like before. My legs gave way to the cramps that formed. I was sinking, I was losing consciousness, and I thought I was going to let my life slip through my fingers. I felt a pair of hands grab me by my hair pulling my head above the water. I took a deep breath of salty air. Ah! I’m not dead. With that thought in mind I used every fiber in my body, pushing my limbs beyond their limit. I finally reached the boat; Sara removed her death gripped claws and climbed in the boat. I, breathless and worn out, followed her into the boat. I was greeted by clapping and cheering for my daring act. I was a bit hotheaded that they paid attention to me now whereas before I could have died and no one seemed to have noticed. I was treated at a local hospital once back on shore, relieved that I could breath normally and on dry land.
Once back on the cruise ship I was recognized for my bravery in a mockingly jest at the dinner table by my friend and her family it didn’t bother, I found myself laughing with them as they did a reenactment of the event that took place a few hours ago. Ah, yes ‘tis sweet sixteen memories that keep this ship from sinking into deep trauma, but I can’t help but wonder why didn’t I drowned when all appeared to be at a lost.
After that day I always give second thoughts on diving into the deep with sting-rays, for swimming with the fishes was a life-changing experience I dare not repeat. I never swam into the ocean again…well if there aren’t any rays or petrified pre-teens around then I might reconsider.
© Copyright 2016 DeeMarie. All rights reserved.
Article / Memoir
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