I sat across of Deedee in the ultra-hip café, Brew, in downtown Brisbane. My gaze vacillated between my new friend and my sandwich. I was hesitant to eat it. It looked so enticing it could have been a work of art. Plus I had something I was dying to talk about.
“Deedee,” I started slowly, “Can I tell you something?”
She cocked her head to the side and smiled. “Of course, Hilary! Tell me anything.” I returned her smile. Gosh, I had lucked out with my meet-ups so far on this trip.
One of my Australian followers had put me in touch with Deedee after hearing I was headed to Brisbane. She had so graciously offered to show me around her city and we had become fast friends. But what I wanted to share was pretty personal given the amount of time we’d spent together. And here I was, about to verbally vomit up some intimate stories in this very public venue.
I closed my eyes, feeling the words overflow onto my tongue. “Okay. So something happened to me in Cairns that I haven’t shared with anyone yet. I mean, it’s kind of a ridiculous story and I’m not even sure what to make of it, but I’m itching to talk about it. And as much as I want to divulge in one of my girlfriend’s back home, I don’t have the energy to write it out via e-mail. So I hope you don’t mind being the stand-in best friend for the moment? Because I really have to tell this to someone.”
She stared at me wide-eyed and put down her coffee. “Dude, this sounds intense! Let’s hear it!” She folded her hands and leaned over the table, ready to drink in my tale. I sat back and took a breath, trying to figure out where to start.
I sat on at a bench on the catamaran, filling out my release forms. I had never been so happy to sign my life away. Today was the day I was finally going diving in the Great Barrier Reef. I still couldn’t get over it: My first dive experience was going to be at The Great Barrier Freaking Reef. And even though my ankle was sore and swollen, I didn’t care. I was doing this regardless of the consequences. I only had a few days left in Cairns and wasn’t going to waste anymore time. I completed the paperwork happily.
One of the Reef Magic dive instructors came over and sat across from me, introducing himself as Rick* (*names have been changed to protect those unaware that I’m a blogger). He pulled up a chair to review the release forms with me. About halfway through I did a double take. Was this cute Aussie boy flirting with me? I shrugged and decided to enjoy it.
Halfway out to the pontoon, Rick gave us a run-down on what to expect for our dive experience. Because we were going out in small groups, we only had to worry about breathing and enjoying the view; the instructors would watch our gauges and help non-swimmers get around. He then gave the time breakdowns for when each group would dive. I was in the first group with three other guys.
The instructors ushered us to the diver area the minute we got off the pontoon. A knot formed in my stomach as one of the other instructors fit me for a weight belt. Was I seriously going to do this? Was this safe? I shook my head, willing the thoughts out of my mind. I had come too far to go back now. Rick led us down to the take-off point. He was going to take the first group out.
We stood on the platform and practiced our breathing underwater. It took awhile for me to adjust to breathing solely through my mouth. He brought us up to the surface and asked if anyone was feeling nervous. I shot my hand up, still not having quelled my jitters. Rick smiled and said that he would hold my hand through the dive. Everyone would link arms and we’d stay that way for the majority of the experience. Rick took my hand and we pushed off from the platform.
My fears dissipated as I stared wide-eyed at the colorful fish in front of me. My jaw dropped so fast I almost lost my mouthpiece. Who knew there were so many fish and colors in the ocean? A school of fusiliers encircled my body, seemingly finding me as fascinating as I found him. I squealed with delight. All that was missing was the Disney soundtrack.
I looked at Rick, my eyes alight with excitement. He winked at me and squeezed my hand. We descended deeper to the sea floor.
Rick guided us to a sea anemone. I almost lost my shit when I saw the little clownfish family swimming inside. Did I seriously just find Nemo? Rick pulled back the lycra suit so that my hand was fully exposed. He gave me the signal that it was okay to touch the anemone and I ran my fingers through it gingerly. The velvet feel and bright colors put me in sensory overload orgasmic happiness. I decided that if I died down here I would be completely satisfied with my life.
We continued our adventure by exploring the coral and coming face-to-face with a baby Napoleon Wrasse. It was hard to imagine that in a few years he would be three times his size. I marveled at his coloring wondering how such beautiful patterns occur.
I could not whip my head around fast enough. I wanted to see it all, and there was so much to see! And was it in my imagination or was Rick giving me extra attention? I didn’t care. If it enhanced my experience I was all for it. But before I knew it Rick was tapping at his watch. I made an, “I don’t want to,” whining noise and gave him a thumbs down. He laughed and tucked one of my stray hairs behind my face mask. The entire concept of the act made me laugh.
We made our way back to the deck, but I took my sweet time. I swam off a ways, circling around the anchor chain. I wanted to drink in all that I could.
But when I turned to find the other divers, I saw nothing but blue ocean.
I spun around in circles. Had I really swam that far away from the group? I was contemplating on what a lost diver was supposed to do when something tugged on my flipper. Oh Jesus Christ, I thought, I’m being eaten by a shark.
I swam against the force, trying to swim to the surface. I was afraid to look at what had me. Is this really how it ends? Hilary’s first dive experience she’s shark bait? Whatever had me had a lot more power and momentum and pulled me fast to the sea floor. I closed my eyes tightly, hoping it would be over quickly.
I screamed into my mouth piece and covered my mask with my hands. But nothing happened. I felt a hand on my shoulder. I opened one eye, and exhaled all my fear. It was Rick. I looked around. Where had the other divers gone?
He did a somersault and I laughed at him. He then pointed at me to try. I clumsily made my way around in a circle. When I managed to right myself, I was suddenly alone again. Crap, how did I keep doing that? I felt a tug on my fin. Rick pulled me further down.
He grabbed both of my hands and stared intently at me, smiling through his mask. I hadn’t realized how blue his eyes were. Without notice he twirled me around and I shrieked with dismay. Holy crap, were we dancing underwater? We spun and spun until we were intertwined.
Rick pulled out his mouthpiece and puckered his lips for a kiss. I hesitated, counting all the ways this was inappropriate. But after a second of deliberating, I said fuck it. I mean, how often to you get to kiss a cute guy underwater at the Great Barrier Reef? I let go of my inhibitions and kissed him. Schools of fish swam around us. I could almost hear them giggle at the sight.
When I came up for air, he winked at me and grabbed my hand. We made our way back to the platform. The other amateur divers were waiting for us. As we made our way up to the main deck my mind raced a million miles an hour. Did I really just dive The Great Barrier Reef? Did I really just dance underwater? And did I really just make out with the dive instructor?
“Are you freaking KIDDING me?” Deedee sat mouth agape, eyes alight with excitement. “That sounds like the best Great Barrier Reef experience EVER! Definitely much more exciting than mine.” I shrugged and sipped my iced coffee, my thoughts miles away. “I mean seriously, Hilary. Who gets stories like that? You were Ariel! All that’s missing are the singing clams and dancing crab and stuff.”
I laughed and bit my lip. “Well, that’s actually only half the first half of the story… I went on a second dive.”
Deedee clapped her hands together and settled back into her chair. “Yes yes yes! This is going to be good, I can tell. Tell me every detail!”
I took another breath and collected my thoughts. Now how was I going to explain this one?