• 27°

Death on the far side of the world, Part 4

During a storm at sea, there is little a capsized person can do to be seen. While being heaved about on its surging waves, you and the wreckage around you are pushed up onto the crest of the swells and there, just when you think you are obvious to the universe, you get lost in the sudsy foam of the waves’ ringlets. You are like a Tonka Toy boat in a tub of thick bubbles with a child under you playing Bathtub Bluebeard.

As the wave upon which you are riding reaches its final height, it breaks, tossing you with no regard back under the water’s surface along with the torrent of the forceful deluge. There is no opportunity to be seen … unless you are very large. I wasn’t. But, I thought I was. Everybody thinks he is.

You think you’re big because you’re you: an ego. Not only are you sure of this, but, by gosh, you’re also unfailingly sure that anybody looking can, of course, see you. After all, it’s you out there in all that water. You, a person of import, recognizable as a friend to some, acknowledged as a presence to many. And yet the reality of your being spotted is as slim as that of a dark skinned jogger running at midnight in a downpour, dressed in black from head to toe. Nonetheless, you grab with all of your being onto those straws called “faith.”

Our eyes were now riveted on the approaching ship. Had it seen us? It was headed in our direction. That meant it had, right? All at once I understood what true joy and deliverance were all about. There wasn’t even time to negotiate deals and promises and atonements with God because I was too excited and scared and exhausted to creatively haggle. Besides all that could come later. On dry land.

I could just make out the ship heading directly our way. Exhausted, I let myself slip down once again into the murky black of my sodden cage, holding onto the neck opening with my fingers. There I waited and I waited.

It should be near us. Still I could hear nothing but the swishing of the waves splashing against my chin. I was pretty sure that ships made noise, but this one didn’t. Where was it? It ought to be saving us by now.

With dogged determination, I pulled myself up through the life vest. There through salt-bleary eyes I peered over the edge of the canvas eagerly awaiting my close-up glimpse of the ship. There it was! Yes, I could see it!

Then just as the ship came into clear focus, something unexpected happened. As suddenly as it had appeared, it just as suddenly took an abrupt turn …. away from us! I couldn’t believe it. It simply couldn’t be true. Our one and only hope of being rescued was abandoning us.

Until that moment I had not known how quickly hope can plummet from elation to despair. This was nothing like the everyday kind of disheartedness when you find that your brothers have eaten your last piece of birthday cake, or that you didn’t make the cheerleading squad, or that you had spinach in your front teeth during your wedding photo shoot. This was our lives here!

My eyes pivoted around to Gordon and Glen. They were staring at the disappearing stern of the ship, their mouths perfect o’s of disbelief.

Quite honestly this would have been the perfect time for me to start the habit of biting my nails except that I could not get my teeth to my fingers.

One thing was manifestly clear. We had no choice but to hold on—to start praying that another ship would come along, see us and not shun us. Unbelievably I remained calm and let myself slip down down down again into the darkness where the ocean sloshed and tugged at my upturned, gasping mouth.

I knew this experience was different for each of us. Gordon must have felt enormously responsible, even possibly guilty for being the one who had gotten us into this predicament, if a finger of blame could be pointed. He must also have seriously regretted the extensive damage to his boat.

As for Glen, I knew he, like I, would be thinking about our boys; how young they were and what their futures would be like without us. From where he hung onto a ragged chunk of the catamaran, Glen was also keeping a vigilant watch on me, making sure I wasn’t pulled beneath the sea again by the tangled ropes, or that I’d not drift too far from the wreckage.

In a way, I suppose, I had a good deal being submerged and unable to see what was—and what was not—happening. But, Mary, Mother of God, wasn’t this the kind of deep that we Minnesotans said went all the way to China? And do you suppose that conversely the sea I was now suspended in went all the way to Minnesota? If I let go, would it be a cheap one-way ticket home?

(to be continued)