Facing the Barracuda
I still remember that day, coming to face that gruesome barracuda. Its shiftless gaze with eyes forever in that permanent scowl, the eeriness as it suddenly is there from nowhere, and the gaping mouth aligned with its daunting set of needle teeth are plastered to my memory. My throat still gets dry.
It was a family snorkeling trip to Stirrup-Cay. The boaters drop my parents, my brother, and I off on the beach and we go straight for the water. I remember I couldn’t get my fins on- my blessed feet were too big- and I had to play catch up. The route was to go around the large rocks and look at the protected reefs and the hundreds of fish. I decided to play it smart- or what seemed smart at the time- and go the other way around the rock…where no one else had reached yet.
Nonetheless, I was determined to catch up to my family as my brother had the water camera with him and I so desperately wanted to use it. As I cleared the vast water from the coast to the rock, I met up with my brother who was on his way back. Fumbling amongst our fins and snorkels he gave me the camera and I was off.
If you haven’t seen a reef, one that isn’t dead, it looks like the rainbow regurgitated its colors and had a field day with the plants and fish that live there. Needless to say, the colors amazed me as I had been instantly thrown into an artist’s dream.
So the picture taking began. That rock, that anemone, that seaweed looking thing, that starfish, that parrotfish- I was overwhelmed.
And then I saw it. Amongst the fire coral, the most beautiful little blue fish with twinkling turquoise spots was swimming. The orange of the fire coral and the blue fish contrasted perfectly. And I just had to get a picture of it.
Bottoms up I tried to get the little sucker but he wouldn’t stay still. For the next ten minutes my attention was completely focused on getting that picture and nothing else.
On the brink of just flat out giving up, I lifted my head up to get some air, but before I could, the barracuda was there, nothing but four feet of water between us. In that moment, the little blue fish was forgotten. It was just me and the barracuda.
Apparently, some people – people like me- only become aware that they are alone in the ocean until a dangerous fish decides to sneak up on them. So I just stared at it, not moving. And thanks to the handy-dandy life vest that every swimmer is required to wear, I started to float to the top. The last thing I wanted to do was let that thing out of my sight.
Thoughts raced through my head. I had seen what these fish could do, ripping little girl’s arms to shreds, jumping up onto boats and biting fingers and toes off- thank you Animal Planet-and it was a four foot long great barracuda to say the least.
So for what seemed like an eternity, trapped in that menacing gaze, we stared each other down. My heart rammed against my chest and my head felt like exploding from the lack of oxygen. Then, at an agonizingly slow pace -as if he knew how to make me suffer- the barracuda slowly drifted off, inch by inch, until finally engulfed in the blue oblivion. Taking my chance, things back in my control, I swam away to the other side of the rock.
I’m probably blowing this story way out of proportion, but then again, what’s a good fish story without a little exaggeration? However, the fact is, the way I tell the story is just a reflection of the impact it had on me, enough to make me realize that you can’t let the barracuda sneak up on you and that if it does, you just stare it down and face it until it goes away.
About two years later and I have taken that philosophy and applied it to my daily life by facing the ugly, scary, and uncontrollable things about life- like a fight with a loved one, a horrible grade, the mean spirited that plague this world, or just the many other horrible things no one can control- and keep my eye on it, stare it down and wait till the situation is in my hands again. I guess you could call it stubbornness, but I believe in facing the barracuda.