Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Jet Ski

It was the summer between my freshman and sophomore years of high school.  I had just spent the night with my friend--we'll call her Katie--at her grandparents' lake house.  Our friend Lisa, who had always been inseparable from Katie, had recently moved away, and this sleepover was clearly a test to see if I was potential New Best Friend material.

So far, I was botching it pretty badly.

"Lisa always used to change the CD while I was driving," Katie announced during the 45-minute trip to the lake, so I stretched my arm awkwardly in front of her face and rummaged through her visor-mounted CD case.  

"Oh," she said when the CD I picked started playing, "I guess that's okay."

After a fitful night on the upstairs couch "where Lisa always used to sleep," I slipped downstairs shortly after daybreak, careful not to wake Katie, who was burrowed in her own bedroom.  

"Why didn't you wake me up?" she demanded when she emerged several hours later, looking refreshed and well-rested.  "Lisa always used to wake me up."

Now Katie wanted to go jet skiing on the lake.  I had never ridden a jet ski before, and I was immediately alarmed by the lack of anything to hold onto whatsoever.  In the driver's seat, Katie had the handles and foot pedals to anchor her; riding behind her, I had no grips, no straps, no footholds.  

"Are you sure this is safe?" I asked.

"It's fine," Katie shrugged, already revving the engine.  "Lisa used to ride back there all the time."

This was likely my final chance to squeeze some magic memories out of this awkward, exhausting weekend.  Katie would know if this was really dangerous, I assured myself.  I mean, she has a jet ski license.  

We careened away from the pier and into the open water.

It took a full thirty seconds for me to yell "SSSTTOOOOPPP!" as my arms flailed uselessly behind me and my ankles lost their ineffectual grip on the hard plastic seat.  

The roar of the engine died away.  Katie cast a cursory glance over her shoulder as the jet ski bobbed in the water.  "WHAT." 

"I'm falling off."

"Just grip my waist," she barked, and we sped away once more, now with my hands resting hesitantly on the sides of Katie's life preserver.

The wind was churning up some impressive waves that day, and Katie's objective was to hit each wave hard enough to send the jet ski briefly flying through the air.  Shortly after we started moving again, a wave slammed against us, and I lost my timid grip on Katie's life vest.  I barely had time to process what was happening as I flew through the air in a graceful arc.

I hit the surface with a giant, full-body slap, then tumbled head-over-heels underwater at breakneck speed.  My field of vision consisted of swirling water and streams of bubbles.  I had no idea which way was was up or which way was down.  Not that it mattered, since I couldn't feel any part of my body.  I'm actually a pretty good swimmer, but it's impossible to swim when you literally have no control over your limbs.  I was like a floating head caught in the spin cycle of a washing machine.

This is pretty much exactly what was happening in front of my face.

Finally, I lost my momentum, and my life vest buoyed me upward.  I broke the surface of the water, gasping for air.  Katie circled around on the jet ski.  As I floated there, watching her approach, I prepared myself to gracefully accept her apology for dragging me into what was clearly a deathtrap.

At that moment, I realized there were things I absolutely would not do for friendship, and that being flung off the back of a jet ski was one of those things.

I spent the rest of the day watching TV with Katie's grandmother in an air-conditioned room, while Katie rode her jet ski around the lake. I was not invited back to the lake house.