We were told about the alligators in the marsh and then we saw one. He looked at us. We looked at him. “Once in a great while,” Michael said, “they’ll eat a deer that’s been hurt. They can run surprisingly fast when they want. Mostly they live on crabs. They’re lazy and it’s rare they’ll go after anything human-sized that looks like it would fight but you never know. . . . They eat rotten meat, Don’t have molars, can’t chew so what he’d do is drag you down underwater, drown you and stuff what used to be you under a log somewhere until you softened up. Have fun swimming at your own risk.” I went in three times. The tiny fiddler crabs scuttle sideways all over the beach making dry sounds, a variant of cockroach language. They all carry over-sized left-handed catcher’s mitts with which they trap invisible flies. No one here’s ever been attacked by a gator — yet. Twice more we saw him just lying in mud not far from us, sleepy and full of power. I took a picture which didn’t come out — all you saw was monotonous green landscape, and then what looked like a little gray stick which I knew was the alligator (having been afraid to get any closer). “They can hold their breath a lot longer than you can,” Michael said. I lost some of my desire to swim, to float weightless on my back like a primordial blob of dreaming protoplasm. When I was hot I took showers and made lists of all the things I’m most afraid of — not alligators but breast cancer, or living through a car accident mangled beyond repair or being the last one left alive after the final bomb has dropped. Or, more simply, never being either happy or great — and in the meantime, having wasted it. Two friends went shark-fishing today, they invited me, I didn’t go. Not that I’m afraid of sharks. I’m afraid to kill something and eat it. Afraid to watch it thrash and struggle. Afraid to admit that this is how the whole dearly-bought-and-paid-for thing works. And that Time, that lazy old alligator, is waiting out there in his marsh where he can hold his breath FOR AS LONG AS HE WANTS.