The purpose of our dive is to inspect the 210 foot el Aguila shipwreck that’s lying close by on its side, broken in three pieces. But Juergen seems more interested in the fruit. I look back down at the banana wondering what to do with it. Then I turn my head and there’s a lone four foot Black Grouper looking me right in the eye. Juergen holds up a piece of banana and the fish gorges it down skin and all, as though it’s been suffering fruit deprivation
. Juergen hides another piece of banana behind his back and the fish chases it round and round, like a game one might play with a puppy. From a low angle the fish sees yellow through Juergen’s legs and tries for it the easy way. That was the plan. On its through-the-legs short-cut Juergen clamps his thighs around the fish. It’s trapped. But just like a puppy, unfrightened, and on a mission, the fish pushes onward. When it breaks through the leg-lock it’s rewarded with half a banana. Ten minutes and three bananas later it’s time for some patting. I rub my hands along its face and over its protruding, marble-like eyes. Then I tickle it under its chin and along its belly like Ellen does with our cats. Finally the full body treatment; I place my hands on each side of the fish and massage its smooth body vigorously. I look at Andy Jeff and see revulsion. He wants no part of the relationship that I’ve developed with my grouper.
We’re down to a thousand pounds of air pressure and need to make a gradual ascent to the surface. As we begin to move slowly up the sand towards the reef, the grouper rubs against my legs and arms. But he goes no further, seemingly trapped at depth. At eighty feet I turn and look back as a beam of light from the sun penetrates the water that separates us. My mask fogs as a tear hits the lens. I wave goodbye, certain that he’s doing the same with his pectoral fin. The fish senses, just like I that it’s over between us.
I'm sitting on the sea bottom off the island of Roatan, in the Caribbean Sea. Even at one hundred and ten feet below the surface, the water is warm. Juergen, my Divemaster takes a banana from his sack and hands it to me. I shrug my shoulders as if to say I’m not hungry. Andy Jeff, the third of our trio, a U. S. military man stays back a little. On dry land Andy’s a fast and furious talker, hitting on a range of topics that interest no one. He claims to love diving, but I have to wonder. With a breathing regulator stuck in his mouth he seems anxious, barely able to mumble.