Shannon and I were in San Francisco for July the Fourth. We watched the spectacular firework display from the swimming club near Fisherman’s Wharf, where she trained for the Treasure Island triathlon last year. Some members of the club chose to swim out into the harbour of Aquatic Park to experience them at closer hand. “I’m going to be in the water next year,” she said.
The following afternoon we ran from our hotel on Nob Hill to Fisherman’s Wharf. It was a warm summer afternoon, with none of the fog so typical of the Bay Area at that time of day. We ran along the sea front in the direction of the Golden Gate Bridge and then out along the curving west pier of Aquatic Park, the spent cinders of the star shells from the firework display underfoot. When we reached the end of the pier I spotted a seal bobbing in the water. “Look,” I said.
“You hear stories about them biting swimmers,” she said.
“I’ve scuba-dived with them and never felt threatened — they’re very playful.” The seal disappeared.
“I really feel like a swim. Fancy coming?”
“Shanny, there’s a time and a place for it. You’ve got a sore stomach and you’re finding running difficult. Imagine what it’ll be like with the cold-water shock. And you must never get into water where you can’t see an exit point.”
“Over there,” she replies, pointing at the beach two hundred yards away. She’s already astride the harbour wall. “Go on, dare me to do it.”
“No.” I know that she will always rise to any dare. “What would I tell your parents when I meet them for the first time? ‘I’m sorry, she sank before I could save her’?”
“Not a bit of it. Just sensible.”
“Come on, dare me.”
“Absolutely not.” I decided my best strategy was to resume my run. After a few seconds she followed me.
Lying in bed later she said, “Thank God you didn’t dare me, my stomach’s agony.” A few days later she had an emergency scan for a suspected hernia that turned out ‘only’ to be a torn stomach muscle, with a blood-blister the size of a grapefruit.