First Dance.

Halloween. Grade eight. I went as a guerrilla soldier. Camo. Gun. The whole thing.

I think my mom was kind of taken aback. I think she thought I wanted to be a slutty fairy or slutty devil or slutty cat or whatever. You know, the default slut costume that young teenaged girls seem to want to put on at Halloween.

But Mom didn’t seem to grasp that I wasn’t popular, so there was no point in being a slutty anything. No one would ask me to dance, so I didn’t have to look slutty.

Looking back, that is terrible logic. And a little embarrassing.

The First Time I Saved Someone’s Life.

I believe I left five young teenagers swimming parallel to a cliff face away from hundreds of angry wasps.


I felt confident as we started. That was probably a combination of adrenaline, assumption, and being a teenager. My brother and I are both good swimmers. We were going to be fine, and I knew that if we took rests clinging to the cliff face, there was no reason we would not get back to the beach, and the short overland run to adults and safety. But the other kids? I wasn’t sure.

My worries were borne out about two hundred meters from where we’d cannoned into the water. Not surprising, really. We were already panicked by the wasps and the fall. Alseah, at the back, started thrashing.

“I can’t do it! I can’t!” She was flailing, but not making the (to me) obvious connection to go towards the cliff, which had handholds.

I don’t think I looked at or said anything to the other kids. I swam towards her. I think I remembered that if you were saving a panicked swimmer, you didn’t go TO them, because they’d try to climb out of the water using you (Damn monkey hind brains, climbing to get safe) and drown you. I swam between her and the cliff. “Come on,” I yelled, “Come on to me.” She splashed and shrieked towards me. She was screaming and crying. She wasn’t actually going under, she was just freaking out. But she was slowly moving, moving towards me.

“Come on, almost there, almost. Good, good. You’re getting it,” I crooned, treading water backwards, always slightly out of her reach. I made her thrash her panicked dog paddle as close as I dared to the cliff, and then pushed her at it with a big, full-body shove from behind until she held on. “See? You’re safe. You’re okay.”

The other kids looked at us. “Keep going,” I said. “We’ll be okay.”

We found a little ledge with an overhang, There was room for both of our butts, but only if we huddled, with both our feet in the water. I pushed Alseah while she clambered up to that lip in the rock. I dragged myself up after and set about trying to offset her shock and terror.

I sang for a while. The Beatles. Alseah calmed down. It almost seemed funny. We were pretty sure it would be, some day.

But I saw the sky was darkening. Our lovely overcast day was going to storm, and we were two wet maidens in our underwear, huddled in a crevice by the side of a lake. When the first raindrops fell, Alseah started to cry again.

We weathered the storm and it passed. I sang her ‘Stairway to Heaven’ and tried to hug her with my arms and legs, to keep her warm and less shocky. I don’t know how effective that was. My goosebumps could have carved the rock we were huddled into. Time passed.

And then I heard the most beautiful sound I have ever heard: An outboard motor.

My dad drove into our field of vision in our 18 foot aluminum runaround. He got us in the boat, he got our clothes from where we’d stashed them. We got back to camp and into dry clothes with warm drinks.

My dad looked at me. “You done good, Kid,” he said.

The highest praise in the world.

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