I have a crippling fear of sharks.
This is not particularly noteworthy: show me someone who isn’t afraid of a bloodthirsty, multi-fanged underwater demon beast and I’ll show you someone with no eyes. I grew up knowing that pretty, iconic Sydney Harbour was secretly stuffed with them. When I was 15, I remember reading about a drunk tourist tumbling off a karaoke boat and getting chomped by a Big Bad. Only a few years ago, Navy diver Paul Degelder made quite a tidy career after losing a few extremities to a Bull shark. But my intention isn’t to convince you of my fear of the Selachimorpha or their private patrol of the Opera House. It’s to ascertain whether or not my good friend Tim – rascal, raconteur and reality television star of 1988 – put me directly in their path.
Means: When Tim suggested we take Oscar and Katie’s kayak out for a spin on New Year’s Eve, I immediately said yes. Not because I am a mad kayaker – in fact I shun anything classed as ‘physically risky’ or ‘exercise’ – I just loathe anyone else having more fun than me. And fun was on the cards: it was a gorgeous summery afternoon. We were lolling like lushes on Oscar and Katie’s private Harbour beach. The promise of spectacular ejaculatory fireworks was in the air. We donned some life jackets, and pushed off into the water. Because I have the physical strength of 18th century consumption-ridden poet, I was sitting in the front while Tim was in the back, and thus in charge of steering. Consequently and importantly, I was unable to see him.
Motive: While on holidays with Tim in Italy, he hid friends’ suitcases until their distress at lost luggage reached fever pitch, hacked my Facebook account to compose an essay attesting to his overall excellence, and put a kilo of stones in the lining of a mate’s suitcase (Pete, check your bag and I’m sorry I haven’t told you earlier). He’s a prankster. He plays the fool. He capsized a kayak the week prior in Rose Bay, on purpose. And, most damning of all, he informed our mutual friend Michael he intended to capsize our kayak. (A great criminal mind, this is not).
Opportunity: We were two hundred metres off shore when I felt our vessel start to rock. It was mildly choppy out, but nothing that should roll a kayak. But we tipped once, twice, and with a cry, we were over! In the middle of the ocean. With a toddler’s insistence, my mind immediately thrust the poster for Jaws into my head. My lily-white legs dangled like bait on a hook. My instincts told me to remove them from sight. I repeatedly slung them back in the kayak while we tried to flop ourselves back in. It wasn’t working. There was too much water in the kayak, we couldn’t get our balance, we were incompetent landlubbers not at one with the sea. As the minutes passed, the panic heightened. Could I live without my legs? Had I used them enough? Should I have run more? I should have run more! By now word had spread throughout those gathered onshore, and our predicament was being discussed with some concern but mostly mirth. My position as ‘stressed’ and Tim’s position as ‘unfazed’ was correctly assumed. Boats began gathering around us, but they were so big, their bulk just made the waves worse. And then, a vision in white began cutting through the waves. Oscar, in a pressed linen shirt and Panama hat, was paddling towards us in an inflatable orange tugboat, looking every bit this generation’s metrosexual answer to the Solo Man. In a matter of minutes he had steadied the boat, helped us bail out the water, and was guiding us back to shore. It was during this return journey that he mentioned in all the years he and Katie had kayaked, they had never once capsized.
After returning to dry land, the theory that Tim had deliberately capsized the boat was quickly shared with me. There was literally no doubt among the 20-odd people who had witnessed the event. Despite this, Tim swore to me, swore to me, that he did not offer me up as a fleshy treat for the fanged ones. Considering I had told him in no uncertain terms I would murder him if he had, he had good reason to lie. But he maintains his innocence.
I want the truth. I can handle the truth. Did my trusted companion attempt to make me fish food?