Monday, January 13, 2014

Safe

“Keep in touch,” were his last words as he kissed her good-bye and she vanished through the security checkpoint. Of course, she would. She depended on that exchange of emails, especially ever since that one when he confided to her that he wanted to swim out to sea. She had panicked, emailing four times a day until he responded. 

After she arrived in Mexico, she thought she would not have to worry any longer. They would move on, together, leave the past. But that day on the beach had scarred her. When he had swum out into the bay until she lost sight of him, her heart pounded so hard, she felt faint. How long should she wait before she summoned help? Maybe he had hit his head on a boat, maybe there was a treacherous tide out there in the aquamarine sparkle, how would she explain in her faltering Spanish, how many seconds before he drowned? She stood up and waded into the shallows, hand over her eyes against the vibrant sun. The few minutes until she saw his head emerge, his strong strokes guiding him back to her, were an eternity. It left her weak and dazed, brought back the sense of disorientation, an aftermath of losing her son. He had only laughed. “I am a strong swimmer, Gretel,” he told her, as he toweled off, ready to order another micheleda. But it wasn't his ability that worried her.


As she waited in the gangway to the plane, she wondered how it was possible to leave. The what ifs haunted her, she had hardly slept all night. The conversation between the couple in front of her felt like glass shards that could slice her skin. She had no reassurances, no promises, only a trail of deaths behind her.


Suddenly it flashed into her mind that it was she herself that needed to be held safe. It was her own life that teetered on the edge. She was already out to sea and did not know if her arms were strong enough to resist the tide. But once she knew this, her fear subsided. She smiled at the stewardess, found her seat, lifted her carry on into the overhead bin, settled her white cotton skirt carefully around her knees, pulled a book out of her bag before stowing it in front of her feet. Ordinary tasks that she had performed dozens of times. Her first flight to look at colleges, the visits back home, the return from overseas. After the memorial, on her way south.

She would make it because she had no choice. The story wasn't over yet and no one knew the ending. She took a long deep breath and let go. She would be back. The trip was a temporary departure. She knew how to text him now as well as email and texts were immediate, in real time. She changed her focus from fear of losing him to the anticipation of coming home--to Mexico, to Minnesota where she had never lived before but where her family now lived, to her own inner sanctuary--she did not yet know.

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