The seaweed forest looks peaceful once the decision not to gasp for air has been resolved. A humming in the ears that stings but then begins to feel like a cold snow cone drenched in raspberry flavoring seeps from the inner ear down to the tongue and carries a distinct bitter taste.
Hypnotic waves of kelp that feel like a silk robe glide across water-soaked tenderized flesh as the body floats just inches above the seabed. Peace feels like it is coming so easily and then a succession of concussion blasts interrupt as three fit men enter the water tugging at my blue bathing suit and molesting my privacy. Rude!
I’m yanked to the surface and put into a chokehold by one of them as he swims me back to the shore. The other two follow behind yelling at me for ignoring the warnings. The crowd watches from the beach as they drag me out of the water. It takes three of them to position me and no one seems to care or notice that the forceful chest compressions seem to be cracking my ribcage.
I make eye contact with some of the bystanders as one of the lifeguards puts his fingers in my mouth to ensure my airway is clear. I feel like a prize catch that is having the hook removed before the gutting and scaling begin.
When people are witnessing a tragedy it is surprising how many don’t present the sympathetic face they must imagine. They look more like they are logging the vulnerability and the rawness of a fellow human being’s misfortune. They are cataloguing in their minds ways of how to tell their friends and family about what happened to them today and spying for opportunities to formulate statements resembling dark wit and absurdity to prove how observant and clever they are.
Today, for some people, I am just a way to help them break up the monotony of the family sized frozen pan Lasagna. I have been reduced to a minor distraction saved for when a mother notices that no one has touched the green bean salad.
The area of discomfort no one really discusses during these moments of personal trauma is when the victim is feeling recovered and wants to leave, but has to remain and put on a show to prove to the universe and to the audience that they have endured a life altering event.
A note to the wise: the gesture of the arm over the head stretched in a manner to cover the eyes is not a universal body language to alert others of a deep trauma; it is signal to the gawkers to please go the hell away. Now!
One sometimes just wants to get on with their life and to walk away as gracefully as possible. One does not want a stretcher and a neck brace and photographs and a ride to the hospital for evaluation.
Sometimes a swim just goes bad. In other cases, sometimes an accident just happens to put a person so close to non-existence that even the tiniest beam of light shining through a translucent ribbon of seaweed becomes the most beautiful thing ever witnessed. A pure moment to reflect upon such a thing would be welcomed; instead, people hijack the experience by exhibiting concern with gaping mouths covered with the palm of their hands and a common misplaced and well-rehearsed hysteria.
None of the onlookers who were staring at me had even an inkling that while they were watching me suffer and struggle for meaning on the caustic sands of the beach; the exploding star in the sky, that summer sun they worship, was watching everything they were doing too.
Lynlea Oppie loves flash fiction and paying attention to the little things in life which echo the larger meaning.