By Dom Cioffi
It was after midnight and everyone was in bed. I didn’t feel like watching television and I didn’t feel like reading. I just wanted to be outside. After all, I waited all year to spend time at the beach. If I was going to be there – especially after what we paid for a rental right on the water – then I wanted to enjoy it as much as possible, whatever the time of day.
So I wandered out the back door into the dark of night. The warm, salty air wafted around me as I strolled slowly down the boardwalk toward the water’s edge. There was no hint of a moon so the night sky was particularly dark. And since we were so far from a city, there was no ambient light to disrupt the epic view of our glorious Milky Way.
I kicked off my flip-flops and walked barefooted into the sand. I got just to the edge of where the tide was reaching and then stopped. I looked to my left and then to my right, squinting to see if there was any movement along the shore from other like-minded night owls. But as far as I could tell, I was completely alone.
I closed my eyes and took several deep breaths, listening as my inhaling and exhaling joined in a rhythmic pattern with the encroaching waves. I was, in an instant, awash in a peaceful moment and totally at one with the environment around me.
But the minute my mind recognized how utterly in the moment I was, I instantly snapped out of it. Several minutes of self-consciousness followed as I tried to regain the profound beauty of those blissful few seconds, but to no avail.
I grew overly conscious that someone might be watching me so I scanned the area once again. And again, there was no one in sight.
Content that I at least got to have one solid moment of selflessness, I refocused on the horizon and the ocean that unfolded in front of me. I stared into the abyss and marveled at the beauty and peacefulness of the night ocean.
And then I got an idea: why not go for a swim?
I weighed the consequences and determined that other than some wet gym shorts, there was no downside. I had been swimming in the same spot during low tide earlier in the day so I was confident that there was nothing other than sand underneath the coal black waves. Sure, the prospect was a little unnerving, but what a great way to face a small, surmountable fear.
I pulled off my shirt and tossed it behind me and then wandered into the waves up to my knees. The water was cooler, but still relatively warm – certainly bearable for a nighttime swim.
I was exhilarated at the prospect of floating on the gentle ocean waves so I readied myself for the final plunge. But just when I was about to dive into the water, the first scene of “Jaws” popped into my head (the one where the girl wanders away from the campfire to take her own nighttime swim and then ends up the first victim of Amity Island’s great white buzz kill).
After a moment, I laughed at the ridiculousness of my thoughts and again readied myself to submerge into the water. And again, another scene from “Jaws” appeared forefront in my mind.
Before long, I was convinced that just under the water off shore were an armada of hungry man eaters ready to make me their midnight snack. And as much as I tired to convince myself that these thoughts were ridiculous, I still couldn’t get any further than waist deep into the ocean.
Ultimately I decided against my late night swim and retreated back into the safety of our beach house (admittedly feeling a little less than manly).
Ironically, the next morning my son and I went on a chartered fishing trip andwithin fifteen minutes of anchoring just off the coast, my son pulled in a four-foot sand shark that looked every bit a man eater (albeit, on a smaller scale).
I took his catch as a positive omen that avoiding that late night swim was, in fact, an educated decision.
This week’s film, “The Shallows” starring Blake Lively, also features a dangerous predator who is lingering just offshore. However, in this case it’s a remote Mexican beach where surfers go to catch the perfect wave.
In the same vein as “Jaws” (the original summer blockbuster), “The Shallows” does a wonderful job at instilling fear into eager audiences. And while it fails to conjure up the profound effect as Spielberg’s masterpiece, it still succeeds at keeping viewer’s on the edge of their seat while delivering several jump-worthy moments.
If you’re in the mood for some genuine thrills at the expense of a beautiful young woman, definitely give this one a shot. Just be prepared for some anxiety if you’re headed to the beach in the near future.
A jaw-dropping “B” for “The Shallows.”
Got a question or comment for Dom? You can email him at [email protected]