Stories: "Are You Scared?"
About three years ago, I was in a relationship with a girl who was ultra-competitive. She wasn’t a jock, but she played a couple of sports in high school and remained active in her years after playing organized sports. She went to the gym every morning and when she couldn’t go to the gym, she often went running instead.
At the time, I was doing something I call a prison work out, which involved no weights and just basic push-ups, crunches and tricep presses off the furniture. I learned it from my late uncle, who taught it to me after he served time in prison.
To my girlfriend at the time, my efforts were cute, but after a while she wanted me to go running with her, insisting I couldn’t only do 200 push-ups and 200 sit-ups a day, I had to involve some cardio as well. But I wasn’t into running, and the one time she actually did get me to run, I was so exhausted, I almost broke up with her.
From that point point forward, we stuck to our respective routines, but a couple months after that first and only run with her, her suggestion and my refusal to cooperate with it, would come back to haunt me.
Memorial Day weekend, the two of us decided to go on vacation together and jetted off to one of those sunny resorts where the hotel is right on the beach. I didn’t want to do anything more than lay out, drink, and eat up all the resort’s food, but the resort had all these activities my girlfriend at the time wanted to wanted to do like parasailing and jet-skiing. Unfortunately for her, the guy she went on vacation with had a fear of heights and the ocean, especially the ocean.
It cannot be said enough how much I hate those vasts spaces of water and salt. Seaside, where I’m from, sits right on the Pacific, so there were a lot of beaches, but the climate isn’t beach-friendly; most days it’s around 60 degrees and if we get up in the 70s, we’re experiencing a heat wave. Where I come from, tourists have died from getting caught up in the undertow, thinking it’s all good to just be climbing on rocks. Where I come from, the Pacific Ocean is thugged out and has killed people.
So when my girlfriend at the time suggested we swim way out to a line of floating buoys, which were clearly marked for swimmers to not pass, I was more than hesistant.
“Ummm, we don’t need to go that far,” I said, as we were standing at the lip of the shore.
“Oh come on, it’s not that far,” she said.
Let me try to describe how far the point she wanted to swim to was. I have 20/20 vision, and I had to squint to see it.
“Are you trying to race,” I asked. “Is that what you’re trying to do?”
“Boy please, I’ll beat you,” she said without even looking at me, which was so disrespectful. “Come on, are you scared? You can’t swim?”
“I can swim,” I protested. It was true, I knew how to swim, I just didn’t know if I could swim that far.
“Then what’s the problem,” she asked. And with that she dove right into the water and started to swim out.
I didn’t have time to think, because I knew the minute I gave it a second thought, I’d turn right back around and sit on my beach chair. But my girlfriend at the time had been so patient with me up until this point, I thought, Why not? The least I could do for her was swim, especially if I expected to get any when we got back to the hotel room. So I dove in, as my girlfriend at the time was a good ten feet ahead of me.
With my legs kicking and my arms stroking, I eventually caught up to her and made it to our destination, but by this time, I felt the tide turning, and I don’t mean the one in the ocean, I mean the one in my chest.
I was worn out, meanwhile my girlfriend at the time looked like she swam all of one lap in a kiddie pool. As I attempted to catch my breath by hanging on to the the string of anchored buoys, she looked at me and said, “You tired?”
I just looked back at her with my chest heaving, not saying a word. She knew the answer.
Before I began to swim back to shore, I paused and gasped by what was in front of me. The shore was far, much farther than the point where I was at now seemed to be when I was standing back there. I didn’t know how I was going to make it back. Well, actually, I knew how, I just did not know if I would make it back.
Just like we began, my girlfriend at the time swam off to head back to shore, and without letting myself catch my breath entirely, I started to swim back right behind her. I don’t know how far I had gotten before my whole body just began to give out. I remember specifically thinking I was at a point where I could start touching the bottom, but when I stopped kicking my feet to feel out the ocean floor and felt nothing instead, I began to do what nobody should do in the middle of the ocean: Panic.
Now the shore seemed even further and I was not only out of breath, but I was losing my mind. Everything became blurry, but I was still trying to muster up the strength to paddle and at least scream for help, even though my mouth was swallowing what felt like gallons of water. Girlfriend at the time, who wasn’t too far ahead of me looked back and saw I was having trouble, but I could tell she was exhausted too. Still, she turned around and attempted to help. We weren’t saying anything to each other by this point, not because we didn’t want to, but because we had to conserve whatever energy and breath we had to make it to the shore. As she tried to pull me up, I could tell she wasn’t going to have enough strength to make any difference, so I kind of pushed her away, indicating to her to just keep swimming back to shore.
Out the corner of my eye, I saw one of the resort’s lifeguard’s swimming out to save me, and when he got far enough, he threw me a flotation device. I grabbed onto it, as the lifeguard pulled me back to shore safely. No mouth to mouth was necessary, all I needed to do was put my hands on my knees and take a few minutes to catch my breath. Girlfriend at the time rubbed my back thanked the lifeguard, then turned to me and asked if I was okay.I just waved my hand up to indicate I would be fine. I was so exhausted, I almost broke up with her, but seeing as she was dating a guy who clearly couldn’t swim to save his life, I was surprised she didn’t break up with me.
Once I caught my breath, I shrugged everything off, even though she remained apologetic in the immediate aftermath. We went back to our room to change for dinner and by the time our meals came to our table the two of us were laughing over what happened. As a matter of fact, two days later at breakfast, we saw the lifeguard who saved me and I insisted we take a picture, which I think she still has.
Although we would break up months later for entirely different reasons, to this day we remain friends. But workout buddies we’ll never be.