The Stingray Premonition
By Aubrei Grisaffe
Though I grew up in Oklahoma, a land locked state, stingrays have had a profound impact on my sizeable list of (completely rational) fears. I do not know which of my parents decided it would be a good idea to pay for me to swim with stingrays, as I am a person who has never liked creatures that are not fluffy and friendly, with a specific inclination to avoid things that are cold blooded and have appendages that could be stuck into my skin. But alas, my parents signed me up for the highly acclaimed Stingray encounter at Disney’s Castaway Cay, a private island for Disney Cruisers in the Bahamas. Low and behold, when the first stingray came into view, I was out of the water. No way on any planet was that thing going to get close to me. Naturally, my parents were displeased with this reaction. They forced me walk out to where the stingrays were. I begrudgingly shuffled over and refused to touch a stingray or let one of them touch me.
When I made the official transition from one piece bathing suits to bikinis before our third Disney Cruise, my parents decided that the best way to spend one of our stops on our boat charter was visiting a cove known for stingrays. This had to be a sick joke. For months leading up to our excursion, I told my parents that I would not be swimming with the stingrays. They met me with laughs and general agreement. All their compliance changed when the boat pulled up to the land of the stingrays. One look at my mom’s face and I knew I would be swimming with the animals I despised most of all. Slowly, I dipped into the water. My mom was having no part of an entrance of this fashion. She grabbed me off the ladder and pulled me into the water. While clinging to my mom like a two-year old, I looked at the pointed appendages beneath me and started to panic. My mom swung me around and started walking toward some unknown area. I could not stop her. Suddenly, I felt something almost slimy across my back. It hit me all too quickly. My mother had pushed me into a stingray. I accepted my death. Finally, when I was freed from the wrath of the stingray, miraculously unharmed by the malicious creature, I darted back to the catamaran. While fear and relief washed over me, my family was practically howling with laughter. Yet, my ego went unharmed. I feared the stingray enough that I was unbothered by their shots at my pride.
Upon my survival of my freshman year of high school, my friend invited me on a beach trip to the exotic and tropical Galveston Beach in Texas. On our third day, we took a surfing lesson. Just before my third attempt at surfing, I felt a pinch on my ankle. With tears streaming down my face, I walked out of the water to my friend’s mom, describing what had happened. Within minutes, I was experiencing the worst pain I have felt in my life. As I writhed in pain, my friend’s mom stood still and claimed she could not find a lifeguard. The pain from the (unbeknownst to me yet) stingray sting spread up my leg, and then re-concentrated at my ankle again. I have broken fingers without tears, but there was nothing that I could do to prevent my sobs. After a beachgoer finally fetched a lifeguard to help me, he said it was definitely a stingray that stung my foot. He stated, with a laugh, “thank God you were not allergic to the venom, or you would have died!” 5 years later, I still have a very visible scar from where the stingray had punctured my skin, and where my body had mended itself from the inside out.
I like to say that I knew at ages 12 and 14 what was to come for me and a stingray, a premonition of sorts. Though there are few ways in which I can encounter a stingray in Alabama (thank God), I think someday I ought to dare to go swimming with one (only in a place where the stingrays’ barbs are trimmed regularly to prevent traumatic injuries), so that I can have the final “ha.”