Skiing wasn’t the only occasion during which I utterly failed at attracting my high school crush, Fred. My affections continued well through freshman year into the summer before sophomore year, and I maintained my delusions of confessing my sentiments at some grand outing. This time, I invited him to come along with some girl friends of mine to Caribbean Bay, a water park located just outside the city of Seoul.
It was a beautiful sunny summer day when we headed off. I strategically placed myself near Fred at all times, not too difficult a task given that the my other friends in our group were not nearly as well-acquainted with the boy. In fact, not long after we left the locker rooms and began exploring the park, we lost sight of the girls altogether.
Now, not being from a family where multiple outfits of any one sort were considered norm, I had decided to borrow the slightly larger swimsuit of my mother’s, having recently grown out of my old one. It was a terrible decision to say the least. As Fred and I wandered around the park, looking for the girls and trying out this and that ride along the way, I found myself constantly having to adjust my straps and keep them from falling off my shoulders.
But all in all, I was having a good time. Fred and I had always gotten along fairly well, regardless of my secret puppy love, so we were having some good laughs as we each stumbled on the surf machine, then floated along riding inner tubs on the river circling the entire park. Growing weary of searching for the three wayward girls, we decided to try out the Wave Machine, a huge outdoor faux-beach complete with five-foot waves activated every five minutes.
Oh, it was so perfect for me, getting conveniently washed away into Fred and splashing each other playfully in between wave jumping. Fred on the other hand decided he was bored.
I should have resisted when Fred started dragging me over to the wave crash line drawn at the half point of the simulated ocean. I also should have fought back when Fred grabbed me by the arms and stood me right smack dab in the center of the line. But I was so preoccupied by the thrill of physical contact that I failed to really see the threat that damn wave posed.
The water crashed down on top of my head and quickly crumpled my composure. I felt my body being flung into the water and rapidly toward the “shore.” I held my breath, but water went surging through my nose anyhow. Hair was plastered across my face like tentacles, and even after the water had subsided and I stood up to catch my breath above the surface, I had a difficult time removing my hirsute veil from my eyes and cheeks.
Despite the heat of the day, I felt strangely cool. I also realized for the umpteenth time that I couldn’t feel my left swimsuit strap on my left shoulder. Nor the right strap on my right shoulder. Nor neither of them on my upper arms.
I looked down. To my horror, my swimsuit top was chilling around my waist.
With a squawk, I crossed my arms over my bare chest and ducked into the water. As I quickly fixed my swimsuit, I glanced up and frantically looked around, praying Fred would be nowhere to be seen.
No such luck. Fred was staring at me, wide-eyed and open-mouthed, looking much as if he’d seen his first pair of peer-group breasts. Probably likely, given he was 15 at the time.
I cast my eyes back down and refused to budge from my position there on the ocean floor, face growing hot. I hoped I could blame the ruddiness on the summer’s heat but knew that, given how quickly the red spread across my cheeks, I’d have a tough time attributing it to sunburn.