As a StoryTerrace writer, Becky interviews customers and turns their life stories into books. Get to know her better by reading her autobiographical anecdote below
Not many people can pinpoint their earliest moment of deep humiliation, but I remember mine quite vividly. It happened when I was seven years old.
At that time, all I wanted was to hang out with my older brother and his neighborhood friends. At ten years old, the difference between his group of rough-and-tumble boys and my small, first grade self was quite staggering, but I didn’t see it. I thought I was a pretty cool kid—a tomboy—who was up for any game of hide-and-seek or soccer, who never tattled on them for beating me up, and who was basically willing to be their slave in exchange for letting me hang around.
One day, they were all riding their bikes near our house, and I hopped on mine to follow behind. Smart enough not to annoy my brother, I kept a good amount of distance between us. As they flew down our long, Connecticut hill, I too raced my bike at full speed. When they made a sharp left toward Pequot Trail, I did the same, even though I was not supposed to leave our street.
After about fifteen minutes of riding, I saw them come to a stop at the local pond, roughly a hundred yards ahead. As I approached the group, I was quickly filled with fear when it became apparent that they were looking directly at me. The closer I got, the clearer it became that they were waiting for me; knowing all along that I’d been hot on their trail.
“Hey Becky,” yelled my brother Zack, as I pulled my bike to a stop.
“Yah?” I replied, so nervous I thought I’d pee in my pants.
“How about you ride with us today instead of so far behind.”
“Really?” I asked, trying my absolute best not to seem overzealous, even though it was the most exciting moment of my life to date.
“Yah,” he replied. “You just have to pass one dare, and we’ll let you hang with us.”
“Name it!” I said, with confidence. I’d sooner die than look like a wimp for this crowd. Especially the cute one, Chris Boyer.
“Well, you know what lives in Quail’s Pond, right?” Zack asked me, pointing to the murky green water in front of us.
I paused with realization, fear creeping up on me.
“You mean,” I stammered, “you mean, the snapping turtles?”
“That’s it,” he said.
“I heard one of them bit off Noah Harvey’s whole finger. Just took it right off as soon as he dipped it into the water,” said Burke Craft, the most obnoxious of the crew.
“Oh, that’s rough,” Zack laughed. “If you stick your whole head in the pond for ten seconds, we’ll let you hang out”
“My whole head?” I asked, filled with panic.
“Ten seconds?” retorted Burke. “They won’t even smell her in ten seconds. I say one minute, that’s a real dare. A true test of courage.”
“Oh come on, Burke, don’t be a dick,” said Chris.
“No, no, he’s right,” my brother responded. “You’re always bragging about how long you can hold your breath. One minute it is. Does anyone have a stopwatch?”
“Right here on my Casio!” Burke yelled with glee.
I didn’t even take a moment to think. I knew this was my chance, and I’d be darned if I was going to let it pass me up.
“I’ll do it!” I yelled.
“Step right up,” Zack said, guiding me toward the water. “We’ll tap you when the time is up.”
Chris came to my side and said, “You don’t have to do this. Why don’t you just play Barbies or something with the girls your own age?”
While I’m sure his intent was kindness, that comment was all I needed to shake any last inhibitions. Barbies?!
I stepped up to the shore and plunged my head right into the cold water. I focused on counting the seconds so that I wouldn’t think about the turtles. 20…30…50….60. I did it!
But, I felt no tap, so I kept going. Maybe I’d counted too fast. One Mississippi. Two Mississippi. By the time I’d gotten to fifteen extra “Mississippi” seconds, I knew I wouldn’t be able to hold out much longer. I started to see spots, even with my eyes closed, and felt light headed. I couldn’t believe I was going to fail. I held out for ten more seconds, it was the absolute most I could do, then jolted my head out of the water, gasping for air. Tears sprang to my eyes as I comprehended my defeat.
After gulping a few breaths of air and getting my wits about me, I turned around, ready to see my brother and his friends laughing at me. But no one was there. I blinked my eyes and rubbed the water away, then looked around a bit. They. Were. Gone.
And then it dawned on me. They’d never intended to play with me at all. It was just a cruel joke. As I began to cry, I heard laughing in the far off distance. Then, I got back on my bike and headed home.