No one ever gave me chocolate or flowers on Valentine’s Day…until I got married. Even then, my hubby has never been a traditionalist. In fact, on our first Valentine’s day as newlyweds, I received a gift that plunged me under the sea. Literally.
I’m reading about magic while my med school hubster examines microbiology slides for tomorrow’s quiz. Just a typical day in our lives at Ross Medical School on the island of Dominica. When I turn the page, he slips an envelope on top of Harry Potter’s first run in with Voldemort. I mindlessly shuffle it behind the back cover and keep reading.
“Happy Valentine’s Day.” Sun says quietly, giving priority to the envelope.
Potter, you will have to wait.
I close my book after retrieving the envelope. “You remembered,” I whisper as I carefully tear along the edges. Students study silently all around us. He smiles. But not for long.
“Introductory Lesson and Dive at Cabrits,” the top ticket reads. The bottom says the same. My insides contract. My eyes get teary. I hate it.
“What’s wrong?” Hubby asks.
I take my book and walk out of the classroom. I don’t want anyone to see me crying.
Hubs follows and we have a blowout fight in the parking lot over the definition of a good Valentine’s present.
“Chocolate. Flowers. That’s what I want today. Not this. I’m not going.”
“Seriously? And here I thought you’d be so excited.” Hubby kicks a rock into the grass.
“I’m not. In fact. I hate it.” I actually use the word hate.
“Okay then. I’ll…I dunno…Won’t you even give it a chance?”
I shake my head no and swat away my tears. I just want simple. A cute card with a heart on it. Some fresh flowers, even if they’re wild and picked from a field. And chocolate. A girl has got to have her chocolate.
I see Sun’s face look up, perhaps hoping a resolution will fall down from the sky. “I don’t know what to say. I thought you’d be excited. I thought it would be fun to try Scuba-diving together. I thought—”
“Wrong.” I finish his sentence. Yes, we may have started our marriage on a tropical island, but at this very moment, I feel like we were worlds apart.
I should kick myself for being such a brat. Sigh. “Okay. I’ll try. I’ll go.”
“You don’t have to.”
“I’m scared though. I’m terrified actually.” The other reason for my discontent.
“I’m glad you’re willing to try it with me.”
I still hate it, I think to myself. And every day up to the event, I dread the moment like I fear jumping from an airplane.
|Ten Years Later on Catalina Island|
We arrive at Cabrits Dive Center, gear up in wetsuits, and spend an hour listening to specific instructions, and watching a video, reinforcing all the directions. I only remember two: Don’t forget to breathe, and don’t ascend too quickly else your ears will pop and you could die. The impending dry run would go better, in my opinion, if I stayed dry and observed from the shore. Unfortunately, this gift required getting my feet wet. And my hair for that matter.
The crazy thing is after we practice a few basics in shallow waters just off beach shores, the next thing I know, we’re on a motor boat, headed for deeper waters. My heart pounds to the beat of the song, “Jump,” cuz at this point, “Might as well jump!”
One by one, each diver falls backwards into the water. I’m thinking, great, not only am I scared. I won’t know when I hit the water—until I hit the water. Breathe, I remind myself.
We follow our Padi instructor down a rope off the boat’s side for a fifty feet drop to the ocean bottom in search of a salt water reef that familiar divers rave about. I can hear my heartbeat between my ears as I clear the pressure by blowing out of my nose. Better. When my flipper-clad feet hit sand, I keep my eyes on my instructor. He asks each of us with a thumbs up if we’re all okay. I give a thumbs up and keep breathing. At least I remember to breathe I keep telling myself.
Then I follow his lead and lay horizontal, face down in swimming position and pump a little air into my vest to adjust my buoyancy. I feel steady if not ready. Next, our Padi dive master motions for us to follow him. So this is what they meant by non-verbal communication. I decide right then that I will not take my eyes off our fearless leader.
Not even minutes pass when I am transported into a world of colors I had no idea existed. We approach a coral reef that radiates neon purples, oranges, pinks and yellows. My eyes feast on the tropical fish, bright blue, and green, striped and spotted, all swimming about, doing their thing. We move further along the ocean bottom, coasting just inches off the floor to discover more colors and more fish. I realize that I was made for this. I find new love! In the ocean.
I look back at hubby to give him a thumbs up since I can’t exactly apologize out loud at the moment, but I don’t see him. Before panic can settle in, I find him, a few feet above me but still trailing. Huh? That’s odd. Why is he swimming so high?
I face forward for fear of getting lost and continue to soak in all the vibrant hues and sea life, spotting puffer fish, sea lions, and schools of pretty pink fish that change direction together as if they were one, well trained army unit. Excited to point them out, I turn back to direct hubby, but this time he’s on the ocean floor, a couple of feet below me. Okay? Someone likes to check out different perspectives perhaps?
When the dive finishes, all I can think is: “Again!” And as I gush forward gratitude and excitement over my new found love of Scuba, I can’t help but notice that hubby is especially quiet. Since I’m the talker of us two, this shouldn’t surprise me. But he’s not adding two words to the conversation.
“Did you like it?”
“Was it your ears? Did the pressure bother your ears?” Me with the guessing? I need to learn to just ask and then shut up.
“My ears were fine.” Hubby seems a little perturbed. “Did you notice I was rarely swimming at your level?”
“Yes.” That I did notice.
“I couldn’t get my buoyancy right! It was very frustrating. Each time I added a little air to my vest, I’d start to float up. Then I’d let out air, and I’d hit the bottom of the ocean. Very, very frustrating.”
I feel silly. I’ve been gloating, and the poor guy had a rotten time. Who would have thought? And then I do what I often do whenever I feel guilty and nervous at the same time: I bust out laughing.
“What’s so funny?”
“Come on? You have to admit? Isn’t it even the least bit funny that I thought I’d hate it, but ended up loving it, and you were so gung ho about diving in, and you had all this trouble?”
“No. I don’t find that funny. Just…okay…A little amusing…but I’m still mad. I think they didn’t give my belt enough weights. Next time—”
“So we’re going again!?!” I stand to do a cartwheel. The stiffness of the wetsuit pushes that idea right back where it came from. I sit back down.
“Do you want to go for a second dive?” Sunny asks, half smiling now.
“Yes! Yes!” I do a little happy dance. Dancing I can manage. The cartwheel will have to wait till I peel out of this black cocoon.
“Sit down miss.” The driver says, “Or you’ll fall out the boat.”
I settle for a knee-slapping, head shaking, toned down version of a happy dance.
“I guess it was a mostly Happy Valentine’s Day after all.” Hubby says, smiling fully now. He enjoys my antics. Sometimes.
“Yeah. I guess it was.” I lean over to kiss his salty lips. “Thanks for showing me the ocean flowers and giving me a taste of a world so sweet, I’d almost compare it to chocolate.”
“So you’ll be my underwater valentine?”
No one ever asked me that question before.
“Under, over, around, inside, outside, and through and through. I’ll be your Valentine til your eyes turn sky blue.” [I’m a big Dr. Seus fan.]
“But my eyes are brown…Awww. I get it.”
And, like every love letter with its classic P.S., I just have to add one more thing: “You’re still getting me chocolate, right?”
Sun reaches down to pull out a tiny silver wrapped Hershey’s kiss from his backpack, unwraps it, makes like he’s about to pop it into his mouth and instead holds it between his front teeth.
“How much did you say you like chocolate?” he manages to say while holding the kiss steady. I lean in to take what’s rightfully mine.
Cuz in the end…a girl just has to have her chocolate.
** So how ’bout you? Tell me about your most memorable Valentine’s Day!
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