Smitten by her scuba tutor, will Sally Evans regret taking the plunge?
"Just don't fall for the diving instructor," my friend instructed when I booked a scuba-diving course in the Cook Islands, the paradise archipelago nestling between Tonga and Tahiti in the South Pacific. "Hardly," I laughed. After all, I'd never fallen for the cliches before - firemen, doctors, divers ... men in uniform? Boring.
But it seemed my friend knew me better than I did.
Sam was chocolate-skinned, brown-eyed and barefoot, his dark hair streaked with salt. The first day I met him we were in the dive centre's classroom on the volcanic island of Rarotonga, and he was trying to explain the complicated physics that govern breathing from a tank of compressed air underwater.
But he was clearly not a born teacher, losing his temper as we floundered in the theory. "Look, let me explain again," he snapped at one struggling middle-aged woman who kept looking tearfully past him to the sunshine dappling the dive pool, the palm trees waving in the breeze. I didn't rate him much.
But when he dived, he was a changed man. His anger and frustration vanished, his eyes shone behind the glass of his mask. He acquired patience, hovering motionless above the coral until we caught up, and helping us to clear our masks of water. I couldn't take my eyes off his strong, rubber-encased body torpedoing through the water. He made it look so easy. And when he swivelled on his fins, to indicate with intertwined thumbs a turtle approaching, for example, it was always me his excited eyes found first.
I thought him an enigma - misunderstood and only really at home underwater. He intrigued me. And then, of course, he was the man I trusted every day with my life. It all amounted to a powerful cocktail. I found myself dreaming about him, and while I was aware he probably had a different girl every week - at 25, I wasn't naive - I started thinking he just hadn't found the right person. Me.
"We're all going out for drinks to celebrate passing our dive certificates," I told him on the final day of the course. "Will you come too?"
I found a sarong in the local market that afternoon and tucked a white frangipani bloom behind my ear. That evening, he sat down beside me in the bar, his knees just centimetres from mine, the air crackling between us. And when he turned to me to speak, I found myself drowning in dark chocolate pools to a symphony of my heartbeats.
At the end of the evening, I lingered by my hired scooter, both of us waiting till the bar was empty.
There was no need for words. He stepped towards me and kissed me hungrily. I felt weak in his strong arms, but managed to drive my scooter to his apartment. There, he led me into his bedroom, his voice husky with passion.
Wow, I thought afterwards, staring at his sleeping face. He's the one. But then he started to snore.
It's amazing how a sleepless night can turn a misunderstood sex god into Mr Average. In the early hours of the morning, I vowed that it didn't matter: I could buy earplugs to block out the sound. But when, the next morning, he slurped his tea, burped and then pinched my bottom, I realised that perhaps I'd been deluding myself about his noble soul. Without my rose-tinted specs, I could see he was, after all, a moody egomaniac who hated his job but loved diving. You could almost hear the sound of a thousand illusions shattering into tiny pieces.
I escaped to Fiji as quickly as I could, feeling foolish and a little ashamed. But, despite everything, Sam did make an impression: since him, most of my boyfriends have been divers. Must be the uniform.
Copyright (C) The Sunday Times, 2002
"How deep is your love?; Confessions of a tourist." Sunday Times [London, England] 5 May 2002: 3. Academic OneFile. Web. 20 Dec. 2009.
Gale Document Number:CJ85477931
(Album / Profile) http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=10028&id=1661531726&l=c7a1668cdc