Passages

“Come on, you’re gonna love this!” Tad shouted up to Jenny from the water. No longer his girlfriend; no longer his fiancée. His wife. My wife, he thought to himself as he adjusted his snorkel mask. Shit. That’s gonna take some getting used to.

Jenny had already balked her turn going down the swim ladder twice, and now there was no one else to get behind in line—she was alone with the staffers, dangling four toes tentatively from the side of the boat and smiling back at him. She looked earnest and, Tad thought, maybe a little chubby. She didn’t want him to see that her knees were shaking, but he did.

What’s with her now? he thought. We’ve already waived the deposit on the parasailing, sat out the day trip to Nassau, the airboat tour in the Glades—Christ, what’s the problem now?

“It’s o.k., honey,” he called after her, waving. “Wait ‘til you see how beautiful some of this stuff is out here.”

“I don’t know,” Jenny answered, cupping her hand to her forehead. The tide was silently taking Tad farther from the boat, gliding him off, backward, toward the reef and the rest of the group. Over his shoulder, past the spattered red navigation marker, she could see the open ocean, down current from her new husband, the other people, and the safety of the boat.

If I have to go fetch her, I swear I’m gonna pitch her in headfirst, Tad thought to himself. He looked away from her for a second to adjust his equipment. He was finally getting to do something fun. Ensconced in the overzealous safety of his life vest, he spit in his mask and twisted around slightly to adjust the heel of one of his fins. A man and woman a few feet away from him had stopped swimming toward the reef. Masks perched over their foreheads, snorkels trailing unused and unnoticed at their backs, they faced each other in a standing position—propped upright in sixty feet of water by the bulky vests. Tad saw the man whisper to the woman.

“Are you all right?”

“Yeah, it’s o.k.,” the woman whispered back, “but let’s stay here like this for a minute.”

“I’m glad you’re here,” the man whispered. Then he reached, cradled the back of her head in his hand, and moved closer. The woman clutched the man’s shoulders and they kissed ardently, bobbing there together, oblivious to the expensive scenery all around them, just under their feet.

Tad turned back to face the boat. Jenny was just where she’d been, standing at the rail, looking down at the water, smiling after him. She waved, open-palmed, her arm hitched high overhead.

He floated for a moment, halfway to the reef, watching her wave to him. And then Tad started grinning—just a few yards from his bride—gliding up and down on the low swells behind the reef. He felt it happening, something coarse and unknowable going slack inside his belly. He smiled broadly now: at her, at the idea of her waving to him, at the panoply of good fortune which kept heaping itself higher and higher in his life. “Jennifer,” he called back to the boat. “Stay there, darling—I’m coming over right now.”

David O'Gorman