I wrote this today (first published on my steemit blog earlier)
The water might have looked inviting if it wasn’t so bloody far away. It was clear, and I could see the sand and the rocks below the surface.
That didn’t help.
I licked my lips, nervously. I wasn’t exactly afraid of heights (if I was I wouldn’t be up here looking down into the ocean below) but I did have a healthy fear of dying. It had served me well up until this point.
“You’ll be alright,” Jim said. “You don’t need to do a fancy dive. Just a jump, straight down, legs together. It’s deeper than it looks.”
That was good. It didn’t look very deep.
“And, everyone does this, do they?” I asked again.
“Yes, I told you. It’s part of the initiation.”
I couldn’t make out the others: they were so far below I could barely see there were people in the boats, let alone make out their faces. I imagined they were looking up at me, a tiny dot standing on the rock that jutted out over the ocean above them. I imagined Clara’s face, laughter lines accentuated as she squinted against the strong sunlight.
What would she think of me if I bottled it? Would she think less of me? Would she think anything at all? I swallowed. Was I really going to go through with this insanity, just to impress a girl? At my age?
Who am I kidding? Of course I was.
I took a deep breath closed my eyes and leaped into the air. I could feel my legs moving, and fought to keep them together, as the air rushed past my face. I hoped my decent didn’t look as undignified as I felt it was. There was an unpleasent noise – a scream. I knew it was me. I tried to turn it into an excited sounding whooop! but – to my ears at least – it sounded like someone torturing a puppy.
And then my legs hit the water. I seemed to be going downward for so long I thought I would never stop. And I realised with all the screaming and falling I’d been doing, I had forgotten to take a breath, before I hit the water. I began to panic, and started flailing. My feet made contact with the sand – just a touch – and then I was moving back towards the surface. By this time my eyes were open, my lungs were aching and I wanted to scream again, but knew as soon as I opened my mouth the water would be pouring down my throat filling my body. The light was getting nearer and I broke the surface with a cry, sucking in air. Around me I heard the others whooping with excitement, and at least one “Nice one, Phil!”. And then I felt hands grasping mine, and I was helped onto one of the boats.
“I can’t believe you did it, man!” someone said – I think it was Frank. “I can’t believe it!”
I smiled, trying to pretend I’d enjoyed the experience. Frank – it was he – passed me an open bottle of beer. I took it and took a gulp. It was warm, but I drank it anyway. Kit and Olly were the others on the boat. I was a little disappointed not to be on the same boat as Clara. Looking around – trying to appear casual, as I sipped my beer – I spotted her. She was on the same boat as bloody Martin. I watched as he said something and Clara laughed, leaning in and touching him on the shoulder as she said something in his ear.
I didn’t like Martin. He was funny – or thought he was – handsome – if you liked that kind of thing – and young. I hated him. He looked over, our eyes met and he waved. I dragged a smile onto my face and raised my bottle at him. Clara didn’t look over.
“Come on,” Olly said. “Let’s get over to the beach. I’m bloody starving!” Olly was always hungry, it seemed. Skinny as an anorexic stick insect, but he ate more than I have ever seen a human being eat.
“Are we not waiting for Jim?” I asked.
Olly laughed. Kit looked a bit embarrased.
“No one else is stupid enough to do that jump, man!” Frank said, starting the engine. “It has always been a bit of a joke,” he shouted over the noise. “You’re the first. You’re a legend, man! You’ve got balls, especially for an old dude.”
Frank took the lead, and the boat skimmed over the waves. I sat back in the boat, toying with the now empty bottle of beer, pulling of the label, trying not to notice Olly and Kit sucking each other’s faces off.
What was I doing? It was one thing to chuck in my job, and go see the world. Why not? My brother’s death – four years younger than me – from a heart attack brought home how random the lottery of life is. If you have a chance to do something – to grab hold of life and give it a shake, before it turns round and chokes you – then do it.
Joining up with a bunch of kids I could have been old enough to father, and to pretend that they were hanging with me because they thought I had something to bring to the party. To hope they thought I was “cool”. God, I felt like an idiot.
And Clara… did I honestly think she was interested in me? Because she seemed interested in my story? Because she laughed at a couple of jokes.
Oh God. I’d turned into that guy.
I’d been so desperate to impress Clara – and the others, too, but mostly her – that I had fallen (literally, it turns out – into the fucking ocean!) for this story about an initiation into their group. An initiation ceremony for fucks sake. What was I thinking of?
Frank brought the boat right up to the beach. Jim was there – he’d driven down from the cliff top – and clapped me on the back when he saw me, laughing and telling me I was a good man. I smiled, accepted the beer he offered me. I watched Clara, Martin and Frank as they set about organising the barbecue and then assured no one was looking at me, I headed off, up the beach, back towards the campsite.
I turned around, just once. No one seemed to have noticed I’d gone.