At age fifteen, I found myself locked in a stupid potential death struggle with my best friend—for the attention and love of a girl.
Summer is a magical time, especially if one happens to be a fortunate teenager with no meaningful summer duties, free to enjoy your time off.
To provide some structure, as well as satisfy their need for peace of mind, my parental units signed me up (the summer I turned 15) for diving and swimming camp at the local country club, a stone’s throw from the beach. Since several of my friends were also signed up, I went willingly and was looking forward to plenty of sun and frolic in and out of the pool.
Ron and I met at orientation and bonded immediately. Ron immigrated from the states to Israel a few years before. He was an all American boy with the toothy smile and American accent Israeli girls found so charming. I was a true Sabra with homeland charm and a cynical outlook. Since we happen to share the same sense of humor and worldview but with very different taste in girls, we immediately became great friends and the perfect wingman for each other.
Then predictably, we fell for the same girl . Darkness closed in, bringing with it an arctic chill, which threatened to consume us and destroy our budding bromance. The object of our desire and affection was tall, skinny with long dirty blond hair and blue eyes, definitely beautiful, in a brainy, classy kind of way, and she had no idea we existed.
Recent research clearly indicates that teenagers are rewards focused and tend be willing to engage in risky behavior (not adequately weighing that risk) if it has the perceived potential for great rewards. And this was certainly true for Ron and me that summer.
After very little thought, if any, we decided to challenge each other to a risky and dangerous competition to determine which of us “gets the girl”. We chose a run/dive off the highest platform in the pool, a solid cement tower with a 33 ft top platform. Ron suggested we run from the back of the platform and jump, not looking to see where we are jumping and whom we might fall on top of. To make sure we keep our eyes closed, a neutral observer was stationed on the platform with us to monitor the jump. Ron went first. He ran, leaped and landed five feet from two elderly ladies chatting on the left side of the pool. Luckily, they did not notice.
Then came my turn. As I was climbing up, warning bells and alarms were blasting full force between my ears and my heart felt like it was about to burst out of my chest, Alien style. I ran, jumped and landed safely in the water one foot closer to the ladies, who again, were completely oblivious.
This was ruled a tie and, true to form, it only emboldened us to try something even more “spectacular.” The specifics were left up to me. I recalled that during our diving exercises, I discovered a metal hatch at the bottom of the deep end of the pool. This was the cover for the water filters. The idea being that large debris, if any, would get stuck on top of the grid for removal by pool personnel with appropriate equipment, while small rubbish would get filtered by the pool system. I turned to Ron and proposed the following: “Why don’t we each dive in, lift the metal hatch, go into the filter chamber, close the hatch above us and then get out and up to the surface, all without drowning?” What a genius I was at age 15!
To this day I have no idea how or why I came up with this very dangerous idea. Since it was my turn to go first, I dove in and proceeded to descend as quickly as possible. I lifted the filter chamber cover and slid under it, letting it close behind me, hoping it would not lock. The panic was almost paralyzing. I immediately pushed it up and to my great relief the cover opened easily and I got up to the surface with air to spare. As I climbed out of the pool I noticed Ron (although previously tan from weeks of pool and beach), was white as snow. Realizing that this might not be the best idea after all, I offered to call us even and leave the choice of who gets the date to the lady in question. Ron promptly and indignantly refused, mistakenly deciding his manhood was on the line.
He jumped in, made his way down, and disappeared from view. Realizing, after a few minutes, that I was holding my breath and out of air, I took the biggest breath I could and jumped in after him. Half way down, I saw him struggling to get out of the filter chamber, gulping water. I pulled the hatch open, grabbed him under his arms and pushed up to the surface. With help, we got him out and he proceeded to vomit a delightful cocktail of pool water and lunch. Out of friendship and shame I pronounced our competition over and the result a tie. Ron thankfully agreed.
As for the lovely girl in question, it turned out she was dating a senior and had no interest in juvenile delinquents who engage in “stupid, senseless and dangerous little boy games”.
We later found out, that had the filtration system been on, we would probably not have had the leverage to open the cover once inside the chamber in order to get out (a very sobering thought indeed). The only saving grace of this experience is that it did not end in the tragedy it easily could have.
Towards the end of that summer, “lovely” and I got together, fell in love and had 3 amazing years of discovering love, sex and what it means to be an “us.”