Introduction Goes Here

Hi! I hope YOU are doing great. The news says the world is a mess yet my life feels nice this morning. Still coming down from the clear-mountain-water bliss of my Japan trip, I’m leaning into my 5AM regimen of meditiation and weight-lifting before I start my storytelling day. It’s getting weirder out there and I want to keep my mind/body machine razor-sharp as my new Japanese nailclipper (best in world, fight me) so I can keep on channeling new writing and comics (soon!!) through my fingers to y’all.

Because doing this right here and now feels wonderful and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Truly. AND SO: let’s get into this week’s story…!

Bahamian Rhapsody

When I started my sophomore year of high school, I transferred to a fancy prep school in Fort Lauderdale that’s known as a Feeder School for Ivy league universities. I didn’t know anyone when I started, and the smallish pool of students who’d been there together since pre-K all seemed like little bonsai trees pruned and shaped to be fully-focused on getting into their dream college, so unlike my friends from the public school system. Also, if I didn’t perform academically at a certain level, I was constantly reminded that of the waiting list of other bright young things ready to take my seat in the Ivy Feeder.

A lot of pressure all at once, and I started to suffer from sleep paralysis.

It would come on in the long eyeblinks between falling asleep and actually sleeping. Instead of feeling calm and drifting slowly into REM sleep, my body would tense up and part of my mind would become fully-conscious with a jolt inside a sleeping body.

Somewhere in that jolt, the input valve that allows us to limit our sensory input until we can function in society come all the way loose, and I would be swallowed by a roaring maelstrom of deafening sound, ever-changing random visions of my own life (past/present/future) and of people I’d never met, like my consciusness was on a miles-long leash wandering the world in four dimensions while my body lay frozen.

The storm would swell in volume and fury and Story to a fever pitch, at which point I’d usually have an orgasm, which occured inside the vision and in my physical body back home. Sleep paralyis usually wound up sticky by the end.

I’ve read a lot about sleep paralysis over the years. Many people see a common set of symbols — like a shadowy man in a hat or an old woman laying heavy on your chest — but mine were full of man-eating sharks.

My most frequently-recurring vision found me inhabiting a sailor on a wooden ship in the past. Warm waters, probably not far from where I lay asleep in the present. The ship would be damaged and sinking as I clung to its mast alone, the water rising around me churning with rising air bubbles and circling sharks. Soon the ship sunk far below me and there was nothing to hold on to and the sharks would begin to strike, tearing chunks of flesh off of my skeleton me until eventually I died…

I remember talking about these recurring images with my Shitty High School Therapist:

SHITTY THERAPIST: It sounds you’re afraid of something, buddy.

ME: Afraid of being torn apart by sharks? Man, you really are an expert.

SHITTY THERAPIST: What I mean is, it’s a symbol of some fear that you’re experiencing now, in your life, and your subconscious is expressing this fear through the image of a shark. Can you think about something that you’re afraid of?

ME [rudely imitating him]: Can you think about something that you’re afraid of?

ME [in my own voice] Do you honestly think that’s not something I’ve already examined — repeatedly — many months before bringing it up in our sessions? I swear, your job is easy as fuck.


As I’ve mentioned previously, I was a psych major for a year. This guy was the reason. His job seemed easy as fuck.

To my mind, the world contained many more layers of than just just our work/home/work loop and the navel-gazing therapy that unpacks it. Unseen layers of meaning, spirit, time and non-human intelligence.

What the Shitty Therapist missed was maybe this meant something real. Maybe it was a warning of some kind?

Because sharks are very real.


And now we’ve reached the head of the tale: sometime in 1991, I took a weekend trip with my family to Nassau, Bahamas. It’s just a half-hour away by prop plane, and back then everyone in Florida had a friend with a condo timeshare in the Bahamas.

After a family lunch at a seaside cabana, I took a walk down the beach a ways until I found a shirtless man guarding a row of a dozen Yamaha Waverunners. Basically, they’re jet skis but you can sit down. There are few things cooler.

He’s renting them for ten bucks for an hour, and I had ten bucks. He asks me if I can swim and gives me the safety talk — how to accelerate, how to turn, how to use the life vest, the fuel gauge, the kill switch — and I’m trying to listen, but there’s a long-legged girl about my age with long ringlets of hair and chocolate skin in a fluorescent yellow Body Glove swimsuit and she just keeps turning over and turning over and turning over again on her towel and I cannot take my eyes off her. She feels me watching her and we make the briefest of eye contact, and my entire face flushes hot with loser shame. Until fingers snap in front of my face:

JET SKI MAN: Yah wit me, brudda?

ME: Yep brother, I’m with you. Totally.

JET SKI MAN: Okay den. One hour… off ya go!

He slaps a damp orange lifevest against my breastbone and points me to the farthest Waverunner. Beyond that is just a mostly-empty beach and the unmanned lifeguard station. I don the vest, tighten the kill switch around my wrist and plug it into the ignition port. With the next wave that reaches the beach, I’m off.

It’s amazing: loud and fast and super-macho plus the spot on the Waverunner I have to bear my whole weight down on vibrates not-unpleasantly against my perineum, giving me all kinds of delightful confusing feelings to bring up with my Shitty Therapist next week.

I rip out in a straight line away from the turquoise shallow waters of shore and past an old buoy convered in barnacles that bobs in and out of the waves before it disappears behind me.

About a mile off-shore, the waves start getting choppier. I don’t think this: I feel it. The nose of the Waverunner starts tipping down between them, and as the waves slap over the vehicle, I’m getting wetter and wetter. It’s warm and sunny out and the sea is cool, but today I wore my eyeglasses instead my contact lenses. The salt spray starts drying on my glasses, making everything wet and blurry. I can’t see where I’m going but I’m afraid to take them off at high speed in case I bounce off some chop and lose them.

So I figure I’ll just… stop a minute and rinse off the salt in the sea. Easing up on the acceleration, I slowly let the Waverunner idle for a second to dangle my glasses in the water and rise off the—

A wave slaps the side of the Waverunner, spinning its ninety degrees lengthwise and throwing me right off my vibrating seat into deep water.

One of the things I should have paid attention to the Jet Ski Man about was the Waverunner’s kill switch. It’s the key to the engine, but it’s tied around your wrist and if you fall off the jet ski, it gets yanked out. But instead of the engine just turning off and it being carried away from you out to sea, it begins to circle you slowly so you can climb back on… if you can catch it.

So, a mile off-shore, the Waverunner putters off without me and helpfully begins its slow instinctual circles, leaving me to tread water, bobbing up and down as waves slap my face while I try to keep my mouth above the surface, every fiber of my being imaging the chunk-ripping sharks from my sleep paralysis visions circling my feet, and now this full-on panic attack has me physically shaking.

The only thing I need to do is clear: like a videogame, I have to time the Waverunner and trying to keep myself in the right space when it’s time to catch it. It comes around, and my grabbing fingers squeak against the acrylic sides and slide right off. It leaves me behind and a bigger wave slaps me in the face, flooding my sinuses with burning seawater.

Recovering from that, I watch for it to come around again. As it approaches, something slimy but firm slips against my left foot and I leap out of the water a full twelve feet. When I splash back down again, the Waverunner has gone for another loop.

The third time though, I catch it. My heart is pounding like never before, a drum banging out my refusal to be prey for a large sharp-toothed fish. When my fingers drag across the Waverunner’s siderails, I dig in and wrench myself towards it until I wrap my elbow around the seat cushion. It beings listing at a forty-five degree angle now, dragging my legs out behind it like bait. Even in the sea, I can feel my own cold sweat.

With every ounce of strength in me, I clumsily climb until I can get my legs over the seat on the footrest ledges. My teeth bared — full action movie — I’m able to plug the kill switch back into ignition and the Waverunner comes to a stop. I grip both handles for a second, panting with relief when—

Another wave flips it over. I’m thrown back into the water again, but this time I haven’t let go of the machine, haven’t popped out the kill switch. I’m hanging on to the now-vertical siderail for dear life, and as I pull myself back up onto the machine, the whole thing rotates laterally until the siderail silently swings back down towards me, landing with a crack on the bridge of my nose. There’s a cartilaginous POP and bright stars before everything goes black.

Slowly my eyes open into a deep bright blue. I hear nothing, but the tiny bubbles are rising off me and I am sinking downwards very slowly. My eyes flick up to the surface, watching the rolling waves from beneath. It’s so beautiful. High above my head I see my eyeglasses floating away.

And I’m aware of shadows moving in the water, all around me. Living things. My eyesight is shit but I can feel them watching, wondering what I am, if I am also food. My panic is gone, my internal words are gone, replaced by shock as my brain slowly comes back online and computes what needs to be done. It tells my body it needs to breathe, and without thinking I exhale through my nostrils, blowing out twin mushroom-clouds of red blood, scenting the water all me with distress and signalling to any predators that I am wounded easy prey.

I look up again at the surface, and there’s the fucking jet ski resuming its slow kill-switch loops and a voice in my head very calmly informs me: this is how I die. The shark visions I had during sleep paralysis weren’t symbols of fear, Shitty Therapist… they were precognitive visions. Warnings.

But you’re reading this now, so you know that I lived. And that’s because I thought I was shark food and without any conscious decision did the only thing that made sense: gritted my teeth and I kicked my legs for dear life.

I remember: the surface coming up at me fast.

I remember: getting a grip — quickly, on the first try — on that fucking Waverunner.

I remember: not being able to breathe through my nostrils, bloody snot-gobbets hanging like ropes out of my nose, into my mouth, down my chin as I wrassled the Yahama Waverunner for control and then—

What I don’t remember. The recording skips until—

Suddenly I’m driving full speed, roaring right out of the surf and up onto the beach. I stand up, wobbling, woozy, slick with my own blood from nose to bellybutton. My glasses are missing and everything is a blur, a searing blur but the sun—

The sun is on fire and I’m on the beach. I’m alive.

Then I hear a scream, a familiar voice, as a five-foot-zero blur fills my field of vision. My mother. Her hands shaking as they cradle my cheeks. Terrified, she wants to know what happened, she tells me the skin of my nose looks grayish.

I run my finger along the bridge of my nose. There’s a bump now where the cartilage meets the bone, and the whole thing veers a few degrees to the right now. It’s most definitely broken. I don’t even care. Tears are sliding down my face now and my hands are shaking but I made it. I made it.

My mother sees my tears and assumes I’m simply the vainest boy alive:

MOM: Don’t worry honey, we’ll call a plastic surgeon to fix your nose once we get back to America.

Which is, to this day, one of the most American sentences I’ve ever heard.

That night, alone on the timeshare’s patio under the moon, I sat thinking about what had happened out there and nervously — compulsively — wiggled on my throbbing broken nose until something clicked back into place.

Blood starting trickling out of my nostrils again for a few minutes but the pain had completely stopped… and it healed just fine.

Follow Alice’s OLA!

I want to shout out the new-but-popping Substack OLA! by Alice Toler — my dear friend since high school who was a full Galaxy Brain artist back then. Alice started her OLA! Substack because of this one, and now her OLA! is looping back to feed me inspiration with daily personal writing about art, dreams, metaphysical journeys and the American desert. And the fact that she can bang out these posts like these using a ten-minute Pomodoro timer is… Galaxy Brain.

Until Next Time

I’m having a blast hearing from all of you every time I bump one of these out. It might even be my favorite part of this: the reactions, connections, conversations. Please keep ‘em coming; it means so much to my crippling insecurity to know YOU are out there and digging what I’m laying down.

Ate a prómixa 💚