Today I am going to tell you about the time I jumped off a moving boat. It was probably not my wisest decision, but I didn’t think about that at the time. However, I do not regret it.

I was sixteen, fresh faced and in love with summer. It was early June in Arkansas, and I was living on the shores of Lake Ouachita with my extended family. I spent every waking moment outdoors, drawing in with each breath the beauty of exposed bedrock beaches, warm June air, and sparkling waters of the lake. My cousins, my newfound beau (because of course this was the perfect environment to foster romance), and I would enter the water in the early morning and only leave when the sun was dipping below the western hills.

One day we decided to rent a boat and explore some of the uninhabited islands that dot the lake’s surface. We arose early and packed two coolers with provisions to last us through the day. Hastily-assembled sandwiches and clementines overflowed from the coolers; their abundance irrepressible. The perfume of citrus mingled pleasantly with the cool aquatic breeze which caressed our bronzed faces. After a group of about twenty cousins had assembled, we all boarded the vessel singing and shouting with excitement at the prospect of a great adventure.

The sun cast diamonds in the mist of our wake as we began our quest for a suitable isle. The boat was not a small vessel, and it rode high in the water. The roar of the motor was dominated by the energy-infused ballads of Outkast which the skipper-cousin was blasting from the speakers. The sun’s heat kissed my skin while the spray of the disturbed waters sought to douse it. Our high spirits were infectious, and the cousins shouted lyrics as we sped carefree across the cerulean waters.

My beau was saying something to me, a smile lighting his face as he noted my pleasure in my surroundings and complete lack of attention to anything else. He turned instead to a cousin and let me become fully entranced by the ambiance of the excursion. Left to my own thoughts, I focused on the environment around me. The waters beckoned to me, and I leaned over as far as I could to dangle a hand in the spray, the force of the boat’s speed tossed my hand about haphazardly.

The lake glittered like a fine-cut gem in the sun’s illumination. I found myself wishing to be fully enveloped in the azure waters. As soon as I thought it, I acted. The impulse took me over; there was no thought but to fulfill my need. Unthinking, I stood upon the bench seat, leapt on the railing, and jumped. A cousin’s alarmed shout rose over the music in the background, but I did not hear it; there was only the lake.

For one perfect moment, a handful of heartbeats, nothing existed but water and sky. My arms outstretched, the sun above me, a slowing of time. I pierced the surface and plunged deep beneath its shell. All that was, all that ever had been, was water enveloping me. I was surrounded by lake, held in place momentarily by the force of my entrance. The buoyancy of my body thrust me upwards more quickly than I had wanted, the moment fleeing swiftly.

The boat had continued past me by ten yards or so, traveling too rapidly to slow immediately after my unexpected departure. It now traveled at a snail’s pace; the cousins were searching for me. Once the cousins saw me surface, they gave forth shouts of glee. My spontaneity infected them, and the cousins abandoned ship, even the skipper. Too overcome by the impulse, the skipper-cousin forgot to turn the boat off before he jumped overboard, and we spent the next ten minutes swimming after the boat and attempting to re-board. It was a perfect snapshot of my own understanding of life, and I held it closely to my heart, long after the sun stripped the water from my skin.


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