One night last fall, I kayaked with about 15 other tourists out into an empty bay on Vieques, an island off Puerto Rico, to see some famous glowing microorganisms. The bay was large, the moon small, the blackness almost total. I shared a boat with my husband and toddler, trailing a logorrheic guide who stopped periodically to expound in broken English on the dinoflagellates’ life cycle before disappearing again into the mist up ahead. Our paddles pierced the water in delicious sunbursts of bright bluish-yellow; we chatted with some newlyweds from Chicago. I congratulated myself for being the kind of parent who lets her kid stay up past ten to witness miracles of nature.
And then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw something flash white on the surface of the water. It was 50 or so yards away, on a shimmering stretch of bay low-lit by the moon. In an instant my body seized up, my eyes squeezed shut, and my paddle collapsed onto my lap. “Babe,” I stammered. But my husband had seen it, too, and was already paddling in the opposite direction. “You’re going to have to get us back by yourself,” I gasped. I knew he was rolling his eyes behind me, but I couldn’t help it. Getting any closer would cause me to faint. Or die.
Hello, my name is Meredith, and I am afraid of buoys.