Aquaphobia


Aquaphobia

(Fear of water)

Robert Allen Rippy was a lifeguard at a public swimming pool in Nebraska. He was 6’2”, blond, and worked out three hours a day after work. Although he was 20 years old, he still liked being a lifeguard. When he was eight years old, he had almost drowned in this same swimming pool when his cousin jumped on him from the edge of the pool and the force of the blow caused him to sink to the bottom of the pool. Fortunately for him, the lifeguard who was on duty had seen the incident and immediately jumped into the pool to save the young boy. The lifeguard grabbed hold of Robert and carried him to the surface. CPR was applied and young Robert’s life was saved. Now, in some cases such as this, some people might be reluctant to get back into the pool, but Robert was not mentally affected. After the lifeguard suggested that Robert stay out of the water and rest, the young boy did as he was told (Robert always obeyed authority figures),but when the time was up, he went back into the pool. His cousin, however, was banished from the area for the rest of the summer.

Most of the people who used the pool were parents who had dropped their kids off, so that the parents could have some time to themselves. There were also some senior citizens who would occasionally come by to use the pool or laze out on the deck chairs. Robert was always solicitous towards the older people and would get after any of the kids who may have gotten too boisterous. Robert would also come to the pool an hour before opening just so he could get some swim time for himself. He felt that it helped get his body limber and that he would not have to worry about cramping before the public arrived.

One sunny morning in May, Tammy Lynn, his 19 year old girlfriend came to visit Robert at the pool. Tammy Lynn had been dating Robert for a year and she didn’t mind that Robert did not have a full time job. She knew how much Robert enjoyed working there, and because their relationship was in its “honeymoon” stage, she didn’t nag him about getting more stable employment. She also didn’t come to the pool very often because of her pale skin, which she considered one of the disadvantages of being a redhead.

“Hey, boy, how’s it going?”

“Tammy Lynn! What’s up?”

“I thought that I would come down and visit. It’s so hot today, and I thought that I would do some swimming.”

“Really? Do you have suntan lotion?”

“Of course I do. Can we talk for a few minutes?”

“Sure, I’ll be right down.”

Robert was happy to see Tammy Lynn but he was a bit curious about what she wanted to talk to him about. He walked over to the lounge chair where Tammy Lynn had settled and sat next to her.

“So, what did you want to talk about?”

“Before I tell you, would you please rub some lotion on my back?”

Robert picked up the plastic bottle of suntan lotion which Tammy Lynn had set beside the chair and squeezed some onto his hands. He slowly started with Tammy Lynn’s shoulders and worked his way down to her waist. By the time that he was finished, Tammy Lynn had still not told him what she had wanted to say.

“So, what’s up?” he said to her as she was turning around on the chair to face him. Tammy Lynn took her time, but she finally told him why she had come down to the pool.

“My parents are nagging me again about going to college in the fall, but I told them that if you weren’t going to go, then I wouldn’t go either.”

“Oh, Tammy Lynn. I thought that you had told them that I was thinking about going but that I wasn’t sure what I wanted to major in.”

“I did tell them. My daddy said that that was irrelevant. He didn’t care if we went to the same college as long as I went. He insisted that I send off for some brochures from some colleges. He compromised a bit by saying that they didn’t have to be from out of state, but I should at least try.”

Robert thought about it for a moment and then said,

“That’s not really a bad idea, Tammy Lynn. At least if you write to the colleges, your dad will see that you’re willing to give it a try. When you do get them, we could both look them over and decide how we want to go from there.”

“I guess that you’re right. I’ll do it under protest though! Well, now that that’s decided, I suppose that I should do some swimming.” Having said that, Tammy Lynn stood up and walked to the low end of the pool. She wasn’t adventurous enough to just run up and jump in though; besides running in the pool area wasn’t allowed. Robert smiled at her, then returned to his tower.

The first two brochures arrived in July and Robert and Tammy Lynn got together on one of Robert’s days off. It was a hot and humid day so they decided to sit out on the shaded porch and shared a pitcher of iced tea. The first brochure was from the local community college. Tammy Lynn wrote to them since they were only a two year college and she thought that it might pacify her father. Robert knew that the community college had a swimming pool but he wasn’t sure if they had a swimming program. Within a week, they had received brochures and applications from three institutions. Unfortunately, none of them had a swimming program and Tammy Lynn quickly lost interest.

“Bobby, what do we do now? Dad is going to insist that I chose a college and I don’t want to go if you’re not going to be with me”

“Well, I’ve been thinking about that and I think I might have a solution, but I don’t know if your father will go for it.”

“What is it? Tell me.”

“Well, I checked on my computer and I did find a place that offers a great swimming program, but it’s in California. I have some money saved up that my grandfather left me and he stipulated that if I went to college, I could receive the money before I turned 21.”

“California? But that’s so far away! I don’t know if my father would be willing to pay that much and, even though he likes you, I don’t think that he would trust us alone like that.”

“That’s the thing! If we find a program that you would want to get into, then we could get into the dorms. It’s not like we would be living together and we would see each other every day. It wouldn’t hurt to ask him, but before we do, we have to find something that you would want to study.”

Tammy Lynn thought about it for a minute and then asked Bobby,

“Does this school offer a nursing program? Mom is a nurse and if I tell them that that’s what I want to train for, maybe they’ll let me go.”

“As a matter of fact, they do have a nursing program. I could bring the brochure over tonight and we can spring it on them then.”

“Alright, let’s do it! I’ll tell Mom that you’ll be coming over for dinner tonight and we’ll tell them then.”

“It’s a date!”

Robert came over for dinner exactly at 6 o’clock since that was the time that Tammy Lynn told him to be there. Tammy Lynn’s parents liked Robert a lot and felt that he was a good match for their daughter. When everyone had finished dessert, Tammy Lynn’s father asked Robert if he had any plans for college. Tammy Lynn knew that this was her father’s not so subtle way of hinting to his daughter, but she had decided to let Robert bring up the subject of California. She looked over at Robert and gave him a nod of her head to indicate that this was the time.

“As a matter of fact, I have Mr. Quincy. At first, I was thinking of going to school here in order to be close to Tammy Lynn, but, unfortunately, none of the schools here have a swimming program. I did find one college that has a program, but it’s in California.”

“California? That seems a bit far to go for a swimming program. How can your parents afford that?”

“Ah, that would seem like a problem, but my grandfather left me some money in his will and it stated that if I went to college, I could get the money before I turned 21. That should get me through a semester or two and my parents said that they would help out.”

“I heard that it’s expensive in California. How will you live?”

“I can save money by living in the dorms and, since I won’t have a very heavy load at school, I could get a job to help with my expenses.”

Mr. Quincy then turned to his daughter and said,

“What will you do with yourself if Robert goes to California? I hope that you don’t think that this lets you off the hook.”

“As a matter of fact, daddy, I think that it’s a very good idea. In fact, I’ve looked over the brochure and have decided that I want to go to California also.”

“WHAT! Girl, do you realize how much that will cost? Have you even decided on a major, yet?”

“Yes, I have, daddy. I’ve decided that I’m going to be a nurse. This school has a very good nursing program and I could also live in the dorms and get a job.”

“I’m not having any daughter of mine living in a co-ed dorm!”

“Not all of them are co-ed, daddy. This is what I’ve decided and if you won’t let me go, then I’ll refuse to go to any colleges here!”

Before Mr. Quincy could say another word, Mrs. Quincy chimed in,

“A nurse? How lovely! Herbert, I think that we will discuss this later. Now, Tammy Lynn, are you sure that you would be able to deal with all of the injured and sick people that you would have to help?”

“Oh, yes, mother! I’ve visited you a couple of times at the hospital and I didn’t get nauseous once. And there were some very bad cases, so, yes, I know that I could handle it.”

With that said, Mrs. Quincy gave a little smile to her daughter and said,

“Would anyone care for some more iced tea?”

By the weekend, Mr. Quincy gave in and Tammy Lynn applied for an application on her computer. By the beginning of August, both Robert and Tammy Lynn had been accepted to the school. They would have to be in Los Angeles by September 1st.

By the time that they had both finished their second year at the university, they had both saved enough money in order to rent an apartment together. When Tammy Lynn’s father found out that they were living together, he was VERY unhappy, but his wife managed to calm him down by telling him that she felt that Robert was an honorable young man and could be trusted.

Robert was doing very well in his swimming, had gotten a job as a lifeguard at Santa Monica beach and was working on a degree in sports medicine. As much as Robert enjoyed being a lifeguard, he knew that it wasn’t something that he could do for the rest of his life, which is why he went into sports medicine. It also was helpful that Tammy Lynn was earning a degree in nursing so that if either one of them had a problem understanding something they could go to each other and discuss it. Over all, they both felt that they had made the right decision in their choice of school. It’s true that sometimes their schedules conflicted, but it was always a joyous occasion when they discovered that they had two days in a row off together. When these rarities did occur, they would take turns deciding what they would do for entertainment. Robert usually chose a day at Venice Beach, a movie, and dinner. Tammy Lynn would choose either a museum or a visit to Hollywood’s tourist spots. The first time that she got to choose, she opted to go to Anaheim and spend the day at Disneyland, even though it put a strain on their budget, Robert agreed to it because he wanted to make Tammy Lynn happy.

And so the next couple of years went by without any problems. Graduation Day quickly arrived and so did Robert and Tammy Lynn’s parents. The couple had a two bedroom apartment, even though they shared the one bedroom and had made the second bedroom up as a guest bedroom. Robert insisted that Tammy Lynn’s parents take the guest bedroom and Tammy Lynn and his mother could share their room. Robert’s father had died of a heart attack while Robert was in his third year at college, so Robert insisted that it would be no problem for him to sleep on the couch since it would only be for two days. The weather on Graduation Day was warm without being humid. Tammy Lynn was more excited about graduating than Robert was, but then he had prepared a surprise for later in the day. Robert’s mother was proud of him and would occasionally say out loud that she wished that Robert’s father could be there for the special occasion since Robert was the first member of the family to be a college graduate.

Since the graduating class members were called in alphabetical order, it meant that Tammy Lynn would receive her diploma before Robert. Five minutes after having received her diploma and finding a seat, Robert’s name was called. Tammy Lynn smiled as he walked up to the dean and got his diploma, but instead of shaking his hand and walking off of the stage, Robert turned and faced the crowd. He cleared his throat, tapped the microphone, and looking at Tammy Lynn, smiled and began to speak:

“This is a great day for all of us and, in some cases, even more for those who have come to see this. I would first like to thank Dean Standish for allowing me to say a few words, even though I am not a Valedictorian or on the Dean’s List. Gosh, I thought that this would be easy but…Tammy Lynn Quincy, will you consent to be my wife?”

The crowd was at first quiet, but then Tammy Lynn, with a slightly stunned look on her face, rose from her seat and yelled, “Yes! I will!”. Her parents, after getting over their shock, smiled and hugged each other. Robert’s mother was crying tears of happiness. Robert left the stage and quickly walked over to Tammy Lynn and the couple kissed for a seemingly long time, so much, in fact that the Dean walked up to the microphone and said, “May we continue now, Mr. Rippy?” The couple broke off, blushed and Robert waved at the Dean to show that the ceremony could continue. After the ceremony, when the couple and the two families were all together, Robert took a small box out of his robe’s pocket, got on one knee and knelt before Tammy Lynn and placed a diamond ring on her finger. Everyone in their vicinity clapped and wished the couple all happiness. Tammy Lynn’s father insisted that they all go out to dinner to celebrate both of the happy occasions. He also insisted that he would also pay for dinner, “since I’ll be paying for the wedding also.”

After much discussion, it was decided that the wedding would be held in Los Angeles on December 20th. The date was chosen so that Tammy Lynn’s parents could be at the wedding when Mr. Quincy was able to take a week off for vacation. Since Robert’s father had taken out a life insurance policy on himself for $500,000 and left his wife as his beneficiary, money was not a hindrance for his mother to not be able to attend. The couple’s mothers, in fact, flew in together so that they could help Tammy Lynn with all of the arrangements that needed to be taken care of. The most exciting day for the trio of women was when they all went to pick out a wedding dress. While Tammy Lynn was in the back trying on a dress, Mrs. Rippy asked Mrs. Quincy if she knew where the couple would be spending their honeymoon.

“Yes, well, I told Tammy Lynn that they should go to Hawaii, but she said that everyone goes to Hawaii. She and Robert talked about Tahiti, but hadn’t decided on that for sure.”

“Yes, I think Tahiti would be a lovely place to go on a honeymoon.”

“Robert also mentioned Bali, but I, personally, think that that is too far from civilization.”

“Oh, I don’t know about that. Besides, at a time like that, I think that a couple should have as much private time as possible. Oh, here comes Tammy Lynn.”

After three hours of trying on dresses, the three women finally agreed on a dress that wasn’t too lacy or too extreme. That taken care of, they went and had lunch. When they finally arrived back at the apartment, Robert was waiting at the door for them with a big smile on his face. Tammy Lynn was in such a happy state that she almost didn’t notice her fiance standing there. When she finally saw him, she said,

“Well, don’t you look like the cat that swallowed the canary? What’s happened?”

“I was offered a great job today that I won’t have to start until the new year. It’s in Denver, Colorado.”

“Denver? What is it?”

“I’ll be an assistant doctor for the Denver Broncos. Isn’t that great?”

“Did you accept it already?”

“No, of course I told them that I would discuss it with you first. I’ll be making $50,000 a year and they will pay my traveling expenses when the team has away games.”

Tammy Lynn thought for a minute, then told Robert that he should accept the job, if that was what he wanted. He frowned when he heard the last part of the sentence, but then told her that Denver had great hospitals and that it shouldn’t be hard for her to get a job in one of them. Tammy Lynn decided that he was probably right and went over and gave him a big kiss. Both Mrs. Rippy and Mrs. Quincy discretely left the room.

The wedding day was blessed with beautiful sunshine but it also had a nip in the air. The day before there had been the tail end of a rain storm, but that would not have any effect on the next day’s affairs. The wedding had taken place at an Episcopalian church and Robert thought that he heard a choir of angels singing when he saw Tammy Lynn being led up the aisle by her father. The glow of her smile shone through the diaphanous veil that covered her face. Time seemed to stand still for the couple as the ceremony proceeded. When it came time for the couple to exchange vows it almost became impossible to hear them over the sounds of the two mothers tears of joy. After the ceremony ended and the couple had been pelted with rice, everyone headed to the hall where the reception was to be held. As a joke, Robert and Tammy Lynn decided that they would bring a little something different to the party; instead of the traditional bride and groom on top of the cake, they had the groom in a pair of swimming trunks and a top hat and the bride was in a nurse’s outfit wearing a veil. At first, the mothers were appalled, but when Tammy Lynn’s father let out a loud laugh, the women joined in the frivolity. Three hours later, the pair had changed their clothes and were followed out to the limousine that would take them to the airport.

As soon as the plane was on its way to its destination, a hostess brought the newly-weds a bottle of champagne. Realizing that there was a newly-wed couple on board, the rest of the passengers applauded them. The pilot even sent his congratulations over the PA system. After an hour, when everything had settled down, Tammy Lynn and Robert fell asleep in their seats while holding each others hands. Two hours later, they were awakened when the hostess told them that the plane was getting prepared to make its landing in Honolulu. This was to be the first leg of their journey. They would spend their first night together in a hotel, and on the 22nd would continue their excursion.

When they arrived at the hotel, laden with leis, they checked in and were escorted to their room. The next morning, since their flight would not be leaving until five o’clock that evening, the couple went poolside and relaxed. Robert, of course, hit the water as soon as they had staked out their chairs. Tammy Lynn eventually joined him and they splashed around like a couple of children. They were even, once, warned by the lifeguard about their antics and they both laughed. Tammy Lynn insisted that they get out of the pool when she saw a waiter put a couple of drinks on their table. Both of them were really not heavy drinkers, but they felt that they couldn’t refuse when they saw the elaborate umbrella and fruit topping the glasses. After finishing their drinks, slowly, they went to their room and changed for lunch.

“Wouldn’t it have been nice if we could have had our lunch brought out to the pool?” Robert said.

“I don’t think that they would do that. Besides, you would have just wolfed the food down and jumped back into the pool,” Tammy Lynn teased.

“Come on, you know me better than that. Once a lifeguard, always a lifeguard. I would have waited an hour before jumping back into the pool.”

“I know, dear. What should we have for lunch?”

They arrived at the airport two hours early as suggested by the airlines. Robert had acquired a nice new layer of his tan, while Tammy Lynn had a slight touch of sunburn on her nose and arms. It wasn’t bad enough to make the rest of their trip unbearable, but she swore that she would be more careful at their next destination. Eight hours later, their plane made its landing. In order to get to the next leg of their journey would require a car rental. The selection of cars was not that great, but they did manage to find something that would get them to where they needed to be. They managed to get to the resort early in the morning. They went to their fourth floor room, put their luggage down and took a short nap. By noon, they were rested enough to go on a walk through the surrounding town. They found a small cafe, ordered lunch, they went looking for some souvenirs. By the time that they returned to the hotel, the tropical sun had worked its way through their skin. They went to their room and changed into their swimwear and went down to check out the hotel’s swimming pool. Robert dipped his hand into the water and, deciding that it was just the right temperature, stood up and dived in. He called out to Tammy Lynn to come and join him. She thought it over and, laying her sun hat on a chaise lounge, slowly took the few steps into the shallow end of the pool. She eventually submerged the rest of her body into the water and swam over to Robert. Robert splashed her and she splashed him in return; soon they were behaving like a couple of children. After fifteen minutes, Tammy Lynn got out of the water and walked over to the chaise lounge. She searched through the big straw bag that she had brought with her but couldn’t find the lotion that she thought that she had packed. She was about to head back to their room when Robert walked up to her.

“What’s the matter? Where are you going?”

“I forgot the suntan lotion.”

“Sit down, I’ll go and get it since I have the room key.” He had tied it on a string and wore it on his wrist. “I’ll be back in a couple minutes.”

Robert had just entered their room, when he noticed that the birds which had been thrilling near their hotel, were silent. The air even felt different. He stepped out onto his balcony and looked towards the ocean. It took him a split second to recognize what he was seeing; a giant wave which seemed to get bigger the closer that it got to the shore. He come out of his state of shock, ran back into the room and headed for the stairs. He had barely gotten halfway to the next floor down, when he felt to his knees when the tsunami smashed into the building. He quickly stood up and, keeping his balance by holding on to the walls, he rushed up to the top of the building. He ran over to the edge of the roof and saw umbrellas, chairs, carts, small thatch houses and some people being carried away. He started to scream because he was looking down on the side of the building where the swimming pool was located, and saw only swirls of dirty water pushing further inland. The only sign of what might have happened to his new bride was the sight of a straw sun hat being sucked into a small whirlpool. When he felt a tremor shake the building again, he walked back to the head of the stairs and started his descent. He was on the first step going down when a rush of debris filled water came crashing up towards him. He unconsciously turned around and ran up the stairs to the roof, hoping to outrun the water, even though, in his mind, he felt that he should wait for the water to catch up with him so that he could join Tammy Lynn in death. The rushing air created by the force of the tsunami almost knocked him over when he pushed through the rooftop door.

Three hours later, when the water started to recede enough for him to climb the stairs down to the ground floor, he walked down in a state of shock. Amazingly enough, when he got to the lobby area, which was covered in debris, he was met by a man with a Red Cross band on his arm. The man led him out of the lobby into the mud-filled street where a make shift ambulance was sitting. As Robert was being handed up into the vehicle, he looked around to see if his wife, either dead or alive, was anywhere in sight. He didn’t see her and so he silently sat down on the wooden bench which was in the back of the truck.

Robert was met at the airport by his mother and his in-laws. Robert’s mother silently walked up to him and hugged him to herself, trying to control her tears. Tammy Lynn’s mother looked like she was ready to faint, but her husband held her up and stroked her hair. There was no need to wait at the luggage carousel since all of Robert and Tammy Lynn’s possessions had been swept away by the tsunami. Robert carried a medium-sized bag which contained the clothes that he had been wearing during the catastrophe and had been donated to him from one of the relief organizations.

September, and the new school year had started, when Robert arrived in Denver. His mother had stayed with him in Los Angeles after he had returned, afraid that he may do harm to himself because of his loss. He assured her that he wouldn’t do anything so desperate, so she went back to Nebraska. Tammy Lynn’s parents had stayed for a week, hoping against hope, that there would be some news about their daughter. They had to return home without any news or her body.

Robert had moved into a one bedroom apartment near campus. He was shown around the campus by the dean himself, who, knowing about Robert’s story, felt that it was his duty to help the young man acclimatize to his surroundings. Even when the dean showed Robert the natatorium, he gave a slight smile but there was no light shining in his eyes whenever he saw a pool.

He had been in Denver a week when he decided that he would go back and check out the pool area. He thought that he would swim a couple laps before going to bed. He walked over to a bench, took off his sneakers and his sweatsuit. When he was ready, he walked up to the edge of the pool, took a deep breathe and froze. Before his eyes, the calm, blue water in the pool changed into a swirling mass of gray water filled with debris. Robert stood there, reliving the trauma that he had experienced in that small Pacific Island resort. Without realizing it, Robert’s teeth began to chatter and his legs went weak. In a slice of time that he thought had disappeared, he saw himself back on the roof of that hotel, looking down and seeing a straw hat sink into a whirl down to a watery hell. His head started to spin and fearing that he too would become just another piece of flotsam, he tried to slowly walk backwards from the edge of the pool. When his vision cleared and all that he saw in front of him was the calm water of the swimming pool, he walked back to the bench, put on his clothes and shoes and walked out of the building. Robert went on to be a very good doctor for the Denver Broncos but never went near a swimming pool again. And if he ever sees a person wearing a straw hat, he turns around and walks the other way.

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