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“Just let stingray do what he wanna do, ‘k?. If he want to swim between your legs, you just let him go through. If he want rub up against your back, i’s ok, ‘k? He not gonna hurt you. He just gonna go ’bout his bus’ness.”

We all nod. OK…right. Let them do whatever they want. Got it. But, wait, they’re going to touch us?

Lauren is next to me, kneeling on the bench, bending over the edge of the boat, looking through the crystal clear turquoise water for glimpses of fish or rays.

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When we get to the sandbar, there are four other boats and dozens of people in the chest-deep water. As they back up the boat and drop anchor, we can see the stingrays. Triangles of gray and black meandering through the water, long tails trailing behind them.

The stingray wrangler, bait-bucket boy, and photographer, hop out of the boat and into the water. Before we can even get off the boat, the wrangler has a large stingray in his arms and is encouraging the first off the boat to touch it, kiss it, pet it, hold it, and, of course, pose for photos.

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Kelly is hesitant to jump into the stingray-infested waters and I can’t really blame her. It is kinda freaky. You have to curb the urge to scream and stomp. (Similar to when we visited a butterfly conservatory and had to resist the urge to swat).

I grab her hand. At nearly $100 a head for this tour, no way she’s staying on that boat

The water is warm, salty, and transparent. We hold hands for a while and steer clear of the feeding frenzy near the bait bucket until we get more comfortable sharing our personal space with sea creatures.

Lauren is bobbing around in the gentle current, waiting for a close-up look at the stingray in the guide’s arms.

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She kisses the ray because he assures her it means seven years of good luck. We all kiss it, even Kelly.

Though I couldn’t imagine being any more fortunate than we already are.

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About Just Write: Just Write is my adaptation of free writing, a technique in which a person writes continuously and quickly without little regard for spelling, grammar, or topic. It helps writers overcome blocks of apathy and explore everything from meaningful topics to mundane observations with the same effort and without the pressure of crafting perfect prose. I just start writing.

“What ends up revealing itself when free writing is that everything has meaning. That is a magnificent gift of writing. If we write from a free heart-gut place, our souls start speaking.”