The last few weeks have been hectic as Sergey and I nailed down such wedding requirements as invitations, reception location, accommodations, and dress choices (for me, not him). So we decided to go on a relaxing trip to the beach to recuperate.
Little did Sergey suspect that day at the beach with me is, well, no day at the beach.
Actually I was not the only companion–we went with a bunch of IT guys and a few IT ladies to a beach outside of Haifa where the aquamarine of the Mediterranean laps white sands scattered with seashells…and cigarette butts and charcoal, but still, a relatively clean beach.
A few months ago, I had dipped my toes into the Mediterranean for the first time in Tel Aviv. It is perhaps a little out of order that I entered the Dead Sea, a three hour drive away, so much sooner than the Mediterranean, which of course borders Haifa, but beaches kind of scare me. Actually, I have been to a Mediterranean beach before, in Barcelona. My overall impression of that beach was indeed fear. I was with my mom and Jasmine, and in our street clothes we felt a bit overdressed in the midst of what we realized was a topless beach. It was nothing I hadn’t seen before in art class, but…
Back to our present beach. Now, my ideal beach activity would involve lounging in the shade of a parasol with a good book, the soothing sounds of the waves in the background. Some people, however, prefer actually entering the water.
I have a deep distrust of any open water between the size of large puddles and the Pacific. I think this arose from several mildly traumatic incidents. The first happened when I was a toddler and my swim instructor forgot to put floaties on me. Following his instructions–which I remember as him goading, “Don’t be a scaredy cat!”–I obediently proceeded to step underwater and came up having swallowed enough chlorine to bleach my insides clean. He was very apologetic. Besides that, there were the books and movies involving watery graves–Moby-Dick, Life of Pi, Titanic. Then there was the incident when, in my senior year at Mount Holyoke, I capsized a canoe, resulting in the loss of my spectacles and my dignity. And the latest and greatest, the escapade in which Jasmine and I almost floated over to Jordan on the Dead Sea. I still have the scars.
So, I argue that I am neither a coward nor a scaredy cat. I am simply more aware of the dangers of water than are others.
To compound these concerns, I was feeling genuinely sick, and unfortunately the seaside vendors seemed to only be hawking tiny kidneys–or at least that’s what the local snack appears to be–instead of ibuprofen or acetaminophen.
I started out with “I will walk in the surf.” I enjoy the nonthreatening whoosh of foam around my toes. Then Sergey convinced me to actually go inside the water.
There were two sides to this beach. One had some sort of breakwater that kept all the waves out; this is where most of the kids were. And that was the only side I would even consider entering. I waded in slowly, whining about the cold water, which was actually pretty warm. I swam a little in the midst of the happy children and their floaty toys.
Then Sergey decided to push his luck and induced me to come into the side with waves. Small waves, but still, waves. I demanded he hang on to me–“Don’t you dare let go!”–and we rode the waves up and down a little. Then I demanded he release me when I started to fear we were in too deep–“Let go of me NOW!” (Don’t worry, I could still touch bottom.)
Once I had gone through my odyssey, I could finally exit the water and do what I had come for: lie down, put on a sunhat and apply multiple coats of sunscreen, and read my book while daydreaming about painkillers.