Last Swim

The man walked slowly and carefully into the water. He felt the waves slap leisurely at his feet. Then his calves. Then his thighs, groin, and stomach. When the water got to his shoulders, the man ducked his head beneath the waves and immersed his entire body in the salty water. It was very cold and there was a strong undercurrent which would like to pull him down if he let it. He didn’t.

He raised his head above the surface of the water and felt the chilly October wind on his face and shivered. He was about thirty yards from shore. He turned and looked at the beach. There were about ten people left. He looked up into the early evening sky. The sun was nowhere to be seen. Ah, there it was, on the horizon, cooling itself in the cold ocean water. The man stared at it for a moment and began swimming toward it. He wanted to reach it before it went under for good.

He began a rather heavy overhead stroke, cutting through the water like a dull pair of scissors through cardboard. He had never been a good swimmer. It didn’t matter. He hadn’t come here to swim. With each stroke he took the water pulled at his body. The frigidity of the water dulled his senses and made his head ache. He stopped the overhand stroke and began an even heavier backstroke. He couldn’t see the sun from the position he was in, so he looked at the beach. Several people had walked to the shoreline and were gazing steadily out in his direction. They had confused looks on their faces.

“Ha!” thought the man. Let them stare. He was getting more and more listless with his backstroke so he decided to stop completely and began to tread water lightly. His head was pounding and his muscles were on fire. The current began to pull at his lower body and the water was freezing cold. The man looked toward the sun. It was just peeking out at him from the horizon line. He looked once more toward the beach. He was about one hundred and fifty yards out. He saw a few people in the water swimming toward him. He laughed. He looked once more toward the sun. It was gone. And so was he.

The current had him by the lower body and was dragging him down. He put up no resistance. He was sinking down, down. The current dragged him slowly until all of a sudden he was in another current. It took hold of him like a hand. He remembered three years ago when he was at Disneyland on his honeymoon. Before all the marital trouble. How quickly things change, he thought.

The riptide shook him and threw him around easily. This was like the rollercoaster at Disneyland. He went way, way up and fell two hundred feet down and flashed around curves. He could feel his stomach churning and his head pounding. He wanted to fall but he didn’t want to land. “Step right up, folks! See the drowning man!” He struggled to get off the ride but it was up to the man running the machine and he was nowhere to be seen. Damn carnies! Finally, the machine slowed a bit, and he relaxed a little.

He was sixteen and was driving in his car. He was stepping on the brake to slow down, but the car would not brake, and there was nothing he could do about it. He was shaking violently and felt car sick. He liked to drive fast, but not this fast. He quickly rolled down a window and vomited. The vomit suspended itself and was floating next to his face. He recoiled to get away from it. Then the car started to downshift and adjusted to cruising speed.

He was ten years old and was riding to the hospital. He had a fever and was in a state of mild shock. He had been showing off for Debbie Schumann and had fallen off his bicycle and landed head first on the grass next to the road. He didn’t know who had put him in the car or who was driving it. Then a friendly doctor gave him a shot. It gave him a warm feeling and dulled his aches and pains.

He was two and lying in his crib. He had his blankie that smelled so good and there were people standing over him, smiling at him. Some were making soft cooing noises. One of them leaned over and touched his foot.

“This little piggy went to market,” said the voice as a finger touched his big toe. “This little piggy stayed home.” He laughed at the finger tickling his toes. “This little piggy had roast beef, this little piggy had none.” He laughed loudly at that. “This little piggy…” said the voice as it got to his last little piggy, “went wee-wee-wee all the way home,” said the voice as the finger tickled him from his toes to his tummy.

He laughed until his tummy ached. Then he fell into a deep warm sleep. There were no sounds except for a calm thumping noise. Thumpa-thumpa-thumpa-thumpa-thumpa. He was warm and snug, floating comfortably in space. He didn’t know where he was and didn’t care. All he knew was that he had never been more content in his life. He wanted to stay there forever and ever.

Suddenly, the “thumpa-thumpa” got louder and he felt himself being pushed and pulled in all sorts of directions. He was being pulled up and out of his cozy reverie.

Something was dragging him by the head. He was too weak to fight back. Slap! He felt a hand hit his back forcefully. Another slap and more pushing at his body. Suddenly, he needed to open his lungs and take in air. He felt hands on his body, massaging and slapping him. He gurgled and choked and spewed water until he got air into his lungs. The air burned with each breath. Then he felt very cold and naked. He opened his eyes and saw strangers staring at him worriedly. He knew where he was. The man who rescued him got up and said, “Are you okay, mister?”

“Please…,” said the man, “help me back to the water.”

Leave a Reply