"Turn your face, young lady" he said with an authoritative and extremely serious demeanor, reaching for the drawstring on his swim trunks. Just fifteen minutes earlier I had been prancing on the beach where the water met the sand. My bikini was new...black, with ruffles...it was a gift from my mother at my sixteenth birthday party just days prior. Now I was looking up from my seated position on the sand at a rounded belly and dark nippled chest covered by a carpet of salt and pepper hair. So. Much. Hair...all the way to that drawstring. My mind couldn't even conceive what was beyond that, but by all evidence, I was about to find out.
Rewind fifteen minutes and my prancing had taken me past the water line to where the waves began to break. There was a group of us prancers...splashing and laughing and eventually bobbing in the Gulf of Mexico. I was on my back, arms outstretched, feeling the sun on my skin and the rhythm of the waves rocking me gently. I had drifted a bit away from my friends when the pain of a thousand needles simultaneously being shoved under my skin took over my leg. I screamed with every bit of air in my lungs, sure that one of the sharks rumored to be in the waters just ate my right leg from mid calf down. I couldn't do anything but scream, not even turn my face to find my friends. I went under, frozen in my floating pose with no air left in my lungs. I felt myself being dragged under the water and thought, "I didn't even eat lunch yet and I'm going to be lunch," when I realized I was being pulled TOWARD the beach, not into the depths to be devoured.
My arms started working and a strong male voice demanded that I stop my thrashing as I felt the thousand needles on my skin again. Terrified of what I would or wouldn't see, I forced myself to stop moving except to look at my leg. My foot was there and it all looked normal, except for the sand the forceful man had heaped on my ankle. He apologized and quickly scrubbed the sand into my skin. I screamed again, in total flaming agony. Then he ordered me to turn my face and I felt a stinging warmth on the same skin. I could smell urine and in my agonized, near-delirious state, I thought I had lost control of my bladder. I was embarrassed. I was more embarrassed when I realized what had really just happened.
He wrapped my leg in a towel and put me in the back seat of my friend's car with strict orders to go straight to the Emergency Room. We tried. I cried. The drive should have been twenty minutes but the drawbridge that was always such a welcome excuse for why we missed curfew was karmically in operation at the time. An hour and five minutes later, we arrived at the ER. I was welted and the scars remained well past the summer, but the ER couldn't do any more for me than the quick thinking and reacting hairy Samaritan on the beach had.
I don't know what's luckier, that it was my only encounter with a Portuguese Man O'War or the only time a stranger peed on me.