Friday, September 5, 2014

Jumping Ship

It was easy to be seduced by a starry night.  The old girls felt so alive there was a chance they might never sleep again.  At least that’s what happened to two friends afloat in the Sea of Cortez.
              The shipmates were waiting for the dolphins to dance across the surface of the water and they are waiting along the multiple decks of the yacht.  It was after midnight.  Because the sea shines at midnight, you can see the ripples across the surface, the waves roiling around the ripples, and wet, slick, dark bodies slicing through the waves, they couldn’t tell the size of the animals at night, all you could see was patches of slick, sleek bodies in the water  for  the gals standing on the third deck.
            Most of the people aboard were American tourists who were visiting the southern reaches of the Baja Peninsula in the search for big adventure—on the lookout for whales and dolphins. Gail and Sherry were standing on the second deck, dressed in Cabo chic—cotton tees, shorts, and flip flops, watching the light trails in the dark water.
            It had been a glorious day.  The travelers saw dozens of dolphins earlier, gamboling in the waves, savoring the sun, knowing that they were putting on a show. The women dreamt of touching the dolphins, and then touching them again, and then again.  Again. Then they dreamt of the animals touching them back, nuzzling, and communicating with those sweet, squeaky, dolphin sounds.   Who knew that animals, especially wet ones, were so lovely, so sweet?  Both women had fallen utterly in love with those animals.  They could hardly breathe with excitement and would be dreaming about this for rest of their lives, then perhaps for some time after that. Gail told the story as many times as people listened.  Sherry will wear a little solid gold dolphin on a thin gold chain the rest of her life.
             It was late, after midnight.  The glistening sea mesmerized; the girls could not look away, even when it was dark out, even if they didn’t know what was really there.
            “Think we should?” Gail asked.
            “Oh, yeah.”  Sherry breathed.
            Over the railing they leapt, grabbing hands, so they wouldn't lose each other in the water, and then dropped feet first into the diamond-embedded sea.  The women paddled close to the dark shapes in the water where the fish bodies slid past them in the spangled waves.
            But something was not right.  Dozens of animals were in the water with them; but they weren’t the right . . . shape?  These were too big, way too big.
              Their little trip off the deep end sat off every alarm on the boat.  Immense searchlights traced patterns across the surface of the sea.  They revealed every fluid ounce, every surface inch of seawater.  The sailors were startled out of ten year's hard living, scared to the point of breathlessness, yelled in Mexican Spanish at the top of their lungs, telling Sherry and Gail to swim back towards the ship.  Those boys gave deeper meaning to their words, they were insistent, loud, and urgent.
Turns out, the animals were not those friendly little dolphins; they were way too big and there were too many.
They were sharks.
Sherry and Gail leapt into a sea full of sharks.
Great big ones.
These massive sharks were harmless, otherwise. . .  They were whale sharks, who inhaled plankton—they don’t actually bite or chew, anything.  The big guys were remarkably well fed in the Sea of Cortez; in no way were they interested in a late night snack.   At any rate, they weren’t the great whites, or the black demons, or a magalodon (a mythological shark from the era of dinosaurs), although the whale sharks were big, scary, and mysterious, enough at any rate.
The sharks inhaled the women’s scent molecules in through their gills, but they didn't turn around, didn't slow down, and didn’t swirl around them, perhaps determining an attack.  Sherry and Gail were not screaming in peril nor are they flailing in the sea, they were calm and . . . beguiled.  There was danger none-the-less, the girls could be caught by the edge of the tail or a flipper, and flung into the next eternity. 
Just so, the nuzzling dream evaporated.  And their quick dip in the Sea of Cortez turned out to be that—quick.
The captain called their names from the front of the boat, wondering if he needed to leap into the water, worried that he needs to beat off dozens huge sharks with his bare hands to save these two beautiful American ladies.  The crew lowered a lifeboat.  But the sharks were unengaged and he was relieved. Our sweet girls were lifted up in the lifeboat.  The captain was shouting orders, right, left, and center, loud and fast. 
Back on deck, the two women were wrapped in fluffy white towels and the captain marched up to them and screamed, “What were you thinking?”
They didn't have an answer and were chagrinned to have created such a fuss.  Whenever they tell the story now, they  are chagrinned, still.
Not the first time our girls have jumped feet first into a pool of sharks.
They are women who get the right things right so much of the time. But this experience will keep them grounded in the sweet, deep heart of humility for the rest of their natural lives.
But more than that, their worst mistake melted into their best story.