I think the boy knew I was
The boat finally came to the reef and dropped anchor (I think figuratively- I don't think they just drop anchors on reefs- I don't remember). At this time, the staff went over the "free swim" perimeter (like they needed to tell me twice don't get too far away from the boat) and the "I'm OK" signal for divers- the sign they would require divers to give them if they felt like something was awry and needed to confirm the diver's safety. (Major foreshadowing). During their little wrap up where they told everyone to have fun, I went numb. I couldn't believe what was about to happen.
Adults and kids alike pulled on their masks, flipper waddled to the side of the boat, and flopped into the ocean like it was no big deal. I tried stalling by fumbling with my gear, but that only gave me so much time. My palms were sweating, knees weak, arms were heavy. (Lucky for me I didn't eat spaghetti). I could just say "Nope, not gonna do it" but I knew this excursion was paid for. And, in the words of my good friend Mollie, "I am not a pussy." I was going to get in that open water if it was the last thing I did (which at that point, I was pretty sure it was going to be).
I made it over to the side of the boat and my mind went blank as I jumped in.
I immediately snapped to AND FREAKED OUT. Panic attack. MAJOR PANIC ATTACK that got worse with every undulation of the ocean. I looked at the boy like a deer in the headlights- totally panic stricken- mouth open- OH GOD OH GOD OH GOD- splutter- face full of sea water- OH GOD OH GOD OH GOD- another face full of sea water.
My display of "how to be an incoherent mess with a life vest and goggles on" was interrupted by the people on the boat.
"They're talking to you."
I focused on the boat through the tears and salt water.
"DIVER" (as he pats his head with both hands- *safety signal*) "DIVER!? ARE YOU OK!?"
I pulled myself together and limply touched my head with both hands. "Yeah... I'm OK."
Panic subsided to slight embarrassment as I looked around and saw everyone flipping around in the water- even the little kids. (But whatever, those are probably the same dumb little kids that learn how to ski wearing dumb monster helmets and go down without poles).
I took a deep breath and focused on calming down. The motion in the ocean still had me a little nervous, but I was already there so I needed to see what all of the fuss was about. With a little help/coaxing, I finally put my mask on and looked down. It was pretty cool. Fish. Lots of them. In every color that was popular in the 80s. I tried breathing through the supplied blow hole (or snorkel, whatever), and regressed slightly. The combination of hearing my own breath (and then focusing on my own breath) and rocking with the waves caught me off guard and sent me into a slight panic. I worked on it, though, and by the time the "Time to get your ass out of the water" signal was given, I was pretty comfortable.
I don't think I talked much on the boat ride back- only because all I wanted to talk about was how awesome I was for doing that. So what- maybe I did make an awkwardly aquatic scene- but I wasn't going to let a paid for excursion go to waste.... or let any seven year old show me up.