In five summers on the lake, I've never done anything in the water except tube. Our boat is specifically made for wake surfing, The Gorilla's favorite water sport, but I've never tried it. Two of the summers I was pregnant, but the other three I've been too scared. Growing up spending every weekend at the lake in Oklahoma, I was made to water ski, even though I was terrible and hated it. It's become the family joke now, but being pulled behind the boat bubbles up every ounce of failure and humiliation.
This summer, I dunno. I tentatively told my husband I wanted to try it. Weeks and weeks ago I said that. He never pushed, but every few days he would ask if I wanted to take the boat out and try. I always had a good excuse or politely declined. Today, just a few days before we're headed home, and mere hours before a group of houseguests descended upon us, we went out.
The Gorilla and I were alone. I've watched him teach dozens of people over the years so I knew the lingo and the form. I strapped on a life jacket and jumped in the warm water before I could talk myself out of it.
The first few tries were epic disasters. I drank a gallon of lake water and now have a wide bruise on my inner thigh. From the driver's seat, my husband shouting encouraging words like "pooping stance!" and "use your heels!" and "you've almost got it!"
I did not "almost got it."
The first few times I was optimistic, but after the 10th, 11th time, I was exhausted and tears of frustration pricked at my mascara-smudged eyes. My inner monologue said I wasn't strong enough, wasn't coordinated enough, and the one time I did get up I panicked at the success and fell immediately.
The Gorilla tried to talk me out of taking a break, but finally I insisted. I wrapped a tropical towel around myself and shrunk into a corner of the boat, trying not to let my athletic husband see my disappointment. He, on the other hand, was crowing. "You've almost got it!" he said. "You can do the hardest part, you're just millimeters away from settling into The Zone."
It didn't feel that way to me. The hardest part didn't feel like the hardest part (nor did it feel mastered), and what he deemed the "easy" part seemed impossible.
We drove around for a bit, checking out lake houses and talking about the kids. After about 15 minutes I looked at the time and knew that it was now or never. He was going to make me try again, and if I didn't want to do it with an audience watching, this was my chance.
The first time back out, my mental game was still off and I flipped right over the board. The next time, relaxed and already praising myself or at least trying something new, I got up and stayed up.
And stayed up and stayed up. I stayed behind that boat for ten minutes. The Gorilla cheered and took phone video and was probably grinning bigger than I was.
Finally I let go of the rope. As the boat made the big loop to come back, I felt the emotion well up like an air bubble. I was sobbing before The Gorilla made it all the way back and, knowing my heart, he laughed when he saw me there in the water. "At least get up on the platform to be emotional," he said.
He tugged me up by the shoulders on my life jacket and hugged me while I cried. We both knew I wasn't really crying about wake surfing. Childhood stuff, and frustration relieved, and pride, and pure, happy exhaustion poured out. I'm that girl who never learned to suck her tears back in.
I can't believe I did it, I said over and over again.
My husband laughed and patted me through my puffy life vest.
I can, he said.